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The Cloud is Local

What an Astonished German Regulator Might Look Like.

What an Astonished German Regulator Might Look Like.


Facebook has a cloud problem. Or maybe the cloud has a Facebook problem. The issue is that the ubiquity of a cloud-based service conflicts with the locality of law. This picture is of the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information Johannes Caspar, and he’s astonished about the most recent changes in the Facebook data protection policy: “It is astonishing to find the facial recognition again in the new proposed privacy policy that Facebook published yesterday. We therefore have directly tried to contact officials from Facebook to find out if there is really a change in their data protection policy or if it is just a mistake of translation.”

I might say it’s an error in translation regardless of whether it’s legal, cultural or simply linguistic. Still, I think I’d go with a possible regression as an explanation instead. Maybe they just cut the new policy from a branch of code that didn’t have the previous changes merged.

Causes aside, for large entities jumping into the cloud with the hopes of streamlining service delivery, the costs of local legal knowledge and expertise remain. Even if it’s cloud-based, you’re still delivering a product in another country and the laws that apply may be different, especially when it comes to privacy and security. If you want to get a sense for how these laws vary throughout the world, check out this compendium [pdf]. That gives you an indication of the variation in law, but not in interpretation or enforcement.

Still, these considerations aren’t new. If you’re delivering a service or product around the world, this kind of legal compliance is the norm. The important part is to recognize that it applies to cloud-based services as well.

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