Thursday, 6 May 2010

Who seizes what?

There have been a couple of interesting internet developments recently: firstly facebook has continued it's slide from useful social website to (which is why I have deleted my account on it) and secondly there is a further excitement about cloud computing (new about 5 years ago so new for business today). Google Enterprise is getting ever bigger; next week Microsoft launch their latest iteration of Office (with shiny online connectivity) and Ubuntu have released their latest offering complete with Ubuntu one: a 2Gb online file server (basically Dropbox).

This made me realise something: what happens when the police want to seize your computer to check it for evidence and you don't have a hard drive? I've been using Dropbox and Google Docs for about the last 2~3 years to keep a lot of my most important work backed up, but what if I was using them to keep less savoury things stored outside of my home? While at some point obviously these files would be present on my local system there are ways of making sure they never really leave any trace and so the police storming my house at 3am in the morning to take away my hard drive and decrypt it won't really do anything: the data just isn't there any more, they have to chase it to some far flung server farm.

Now while the obvious case in an individuals situation would be that the police would write to the server company and ask them to release the data and no doubt they would get emailed a nice data stream of the contents of that area. What happens, though, when it's a company they're investigating? If an entire company's data was hosted on the cloud then that's a lot of information to work through. You may only want one persons but it's no longer a case of separating out a few physical hard drives: you will have to stream however many hundreds of Gbytes of data that they could have accessed. This, of course, all assumes that you can trust the hosts and the other people in the company: if you need to get the info before anything can happen to it you may need to be a bit faster. Otherwise the hard drives you want will might not exist. The information  won't be on one or two single drives either, it is likely part of a huge array somewhere in a warehouse that may not even be in the same country as the company, you or anyone else who may help. That data may also mixed in with all sorts of other information from companies you're not interested in.

My point is that if the government thought it had problems with the music industry and copyright fighting technology it hasn't seen anything. When people start leaving their important incriminating files on computers that don't even exist in any physical way run on servers in other countries that may be closely guarded by people not friendly to your cause. 

Anyway as I hope I have demonstrated there should be lots of fun technology debates coming soon to a governing body near you!

1 comment:

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