How Cloud Enables a Reasonable Expectation of Privacy on the Web

In Cloud by Daniel Newman2 Comments

There has been a lot of talk from the pundits to the hunted (remember Edward Snowden?) about how there really is no longer any privacy on the Internet. However, as much as there is some truth in every lie, this particular thought isn’t entirely true. Perhaps a better way to explain it is: there is no privacy when you are using free applications on the Internet. When it comes to social media, iPhone apps, and a host of other free tools, we relinquish our privacy ever so willingly. With the Internet becoming ubiquitous, we are increasingly looking for services online and typically when we go searching for a specific need, we find that “there’s an app for that.” Services that otherwise would cost us dearly are being offered for far less money, or even for free, thanks to the Internet. Just think of how cable TV, mobile phone, landline phone and fax, ISP, and even satellite radio companies had so little real competition before Internet arrived. But now, the internet serves so much of what we need for less.

If the Service is Free – YOU are the Product

Unfortunately, today data breach has become a fairly common threat. Over the last couple of years, we have seen digital theft, breach of trust, and so on reshaping our notions related to Internet-based services. Over the last year, it seems that every couple of weeks we could find talk about information being leaked, or falling into the wrong hands due to some hack or breach. We need a reminder that nothing comes for free. Absolutely nothing.

What exactly is the price we’re paying whenever we use free services? We become the products. Whenever we opt for free services, we agree to disclose our personal information, and companies are using that information to sell something of value to others. So even when you’re not a direct source of income, you’re definitely helping them earn their dollars.

Does Privacy Exist?

When it comes to enterprise cloud, and even personal cloud, you can have a reasonable expectation to privacy. So if you’re asking if privacy exists, I’d say it does, with the caveat that you have to be assertive in demanding it, and take some precautionary steps to maintain your security on the cloud.

Generally, when you use paid solutions for storage, file sharing, project management, collaboration and more, you can and should have a right to privacy of use, content, and data. Before you choose a cloud service, it’s really important to clearly understand what exactly you’re signing up for. Most of us flinch from reading those utterly long and boring pages of terms and conditions put forth by service providers, but those documents actually answer most of our security-related questions.

If you invest in the right cloud products, then you can maintain a level of privacy online. However, I believe there’s no such thing as “too much security” when it comes to using Internet-based services. Even if you’re using the most secure cloud services and maintaining healthy password habits, I recommend using a third layer of protection in the form of third-party encryption software and tools such as Boxcryptor, Viivo, Cryptsync, etc. They provide a great means to adding this extra level of protection.

The true takeaway is: Remember the difference between buying a product, and being the product. When it’s the second one, chances are that you’re taking a gamble with your security. Ultimately, you have two options – free service, or secure service. The choice is yours to make.

This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

Image: Creative Commons

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. From Big Data to IoT to Cloud Computing, Newman makes the connections between business, people and tech that are required for companies to benefit most from their technology projects, which leads to his ideas regularly being cited in CIO.Com, CIO Review and hundreds of other sites across the world. A 5x Best Selling Author including his most recent “Building Dragons: Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy,” Daniel is also a Forbes, Entrepreneur and Huffington Post Contributor. MBA and Graduate Adjunct Professor, Daniel Newman is a Chicago Native and his speaking takes him around the world each year as he shares his vision of the role technology will play in our future.


  1. I agree with your comment when something is free you are the product. But what you should be saying is when you pay you sometimes aren’t the product. Just because you pay doesn’t mean you aren’t also a target for advertising. The problem with the cloud as we saw with Apple is it is hackable. The other problem is if someone else gets just one device of yours they could have access to all of them. Cloud is a poor term. Your stuff is still hosted on servers somewhere and you don’t own them so you really still need to back up everything on your own hard drive or server. Any business that does not is crazy dumb.

    What would be best is a personal cloud based off your own systems vs a 3rd parties. That would be the best because if you don;t think IBM isn’t scouring your data for ways to make more money off of you are naive. IBM makes money selling business solutions and they will use your data and your activity to pitch you new products. So privacy is a very relative term.

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