Today’s Nonsense – The Cloud as a Government Plot

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ben Kepes


The other day I came across an article that reminded me of the conspiracist theories of a friend of mine who is adamant that both Google and Facebook are CIA plots to gain control of our lives.

This particular conspiracy was a piece by Jason Douglass on infowars the central thesis of Douglass’ post is that Cloud Computing has nothing to do with saving end users money, rather it is “an attempt to create an entirely new market and subsequently a brand new revenue stream for multinational tech giants while allowing them to maintain complete control of their products”.

Douglass talks about the security of the cloud and (justifiably) contrasts security with privacy. Contrasting these two aspects of the cloud however does not give one the right to immediately jump to the conclusion that private information will somehow instantaneously be available to Government (and non-Government for that matter) agencies.

It is somewhat confusing that Douglass switches between claiming cloud is merely a front for existing multinational tech giants and that it is merely a front for Government agencies – or perhaps Douglass is asserting that all tech multinationals are owned and controlled by the US Government – hard to say for sure.

Regardless of where his conspiracy theories lie, let’s look at the two issues he raises in turn.

Tech multinationals

Let’s look at the major tech players of the past couple of decades – and see how much of the coming tide of cloud they’re really responsible for.

Microsoft? Playing a serious game of catch up. SAP? Only a very recent move towards anything resembling cloud. The consulting firms: Cap Gemini and Accenture? Trying to find their way in a generally laggardly manner, in the clouds.

I really don’t see what justification Douglass has for claiming the cloud is little more than an invention of incumbent players – who’s moving and shaking in the clouds? Lots of companies that have only existed for a handful of years – Google, Facebook and others.

It’s all a Government plot

This one is significantly harder to disprove – we’ve all heard the urban rumors (myths perhaps) about CIA investments in Google and Facebook. But do we really believe that the cloud really offers Governments a significantly easier way to see what we’re doing?

The reality is that most of what we do, even if it’s stored on our own computers, ends up being passed across a network somewhere – the internet, the mobile networks, heck even snail mail. If the feds want to get to our stuff they can.

Am I naive or is this all a little over the top? I use the cloud extensively – my email, documents, financial affairs are all processed and stored someplace else.

I’ve never been afraid that I was propping up some dystopian hegemony nor risking an early morning knock on the door from the feds. Perhaps at the end of the day, if we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear...

Cross-posted from Diversity

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