As hosted service providers continue to take on more and more corporate data there are certainly going to be an overwhelming number of legal issues that come up. It is surprising to me that all providers I have subscribed to are only required to throw up a 90 page user agreement (I have never read one) that requires only for the user to check a box and click next and with that everything and anything that is put on that providers systems is theirs to do as they wish with. With most smaller providers there probably isn’t any agreement and certainly if there is one there is likely nothing in it that protects the customer, most agreements are designed to only protect the provider. Even with a legal document in place it doesn’t mean that a provider won’t break the agreement and force the consumer to resort to legal action… and that is where the problem will begin… what are the legal rights? Are there laws in place to protect you?
For example according to the Facebook user agreement, Facebook can “use, copy, publicly display, publicly perform, reformat, excerpt and distribute it.” Certainly losing or having someone use your Facebook, GMail or Snapfish information would be horrible but what if the same legal policies for your corporate data where treated the same way… the fact is they are!
Here are questions that any asset owner must be asking themselves before putting their data and the data of their clients in a hosted or cloud environment outside of their control.
1. What if the provider goes out of business?
2. What if the system fails and is offline?
3. What if the provider where to lose your data?
4. What if they hold your data hostage?
5. Should you have the legal right to know where your data is being stored?
6. Should your clients know where you are storing their data (i.e. tax returns, medical records, etc.)?
Are we not just treating our data, the information that drives our businesses, like a utility when we put it in a hosted environment. Is the information only as important as we think of our telephone or power service?
As an owner of this information you must consider these questions.