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A Wise User Judges Each Internet Usage Scenario Carefully

September 28, 2011 • SPECIAL FEATURES, TECHNOLOGY

By Dr. Richard Stallman

If the term “Cloud Computing” has any meaning, it can only be a certain attitude towards computing: an attitude of not thinking carefully about what a proposed scenario entails or what risks it implies.

Businesses now offer computing users tempting opportunities to let others keep their data and do their computing.  In other words, to toss caution and responsibility to the winds.

These businesses, and their boosters, like to call these computing practices “cloud computing”. They apply the same term to other quite different scenarios as well, such as renting a remote server, making the term so broad and nebulous that nothing meaningful can be said with it.  If it has any meaning, it can only be a certain attitude towards computing: an attitude of not thinking carefully about what a proposed scenario entails or what risks it implies. Perhaps the cloud they speak of is intended to form inside the customer’s mind.

To replace that cloud with clarity, this article discusses several different products and services that involve very different usage scenarios (please don’t think of them as “cloud computing”), and the distinctive issues that they raise.

There are two kinds of issues that a usage scenario “can” raise: one is “treatment of your data”, and the other is “control of your computing”.

Possible issues

First, let’s classify the kinds of issues that a usage scenario “can” raise.  In general, there are two kinds of issues to be considered. One is the issue of “treatment of your data”, and the other is “control of your computing”.

Within treatment of your data, several issues can be distinguished: a service could lose your data, alter it, show it to someone else without your consent, and/or make it hard for you to get the data back.  Each of these issues is easy to understand; how important they are depends on what kind of data is involved.

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