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Cloud computing user privacy in serious need of reform, scholars say

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Posted June 12, 2013
University of Illinois law professor Jay P. Kesan says the current "non-negotiable approach" to user privacy is in need of serious revision, especially with the increased popularity of web-based software that shares information via cloud computing. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

University of Illinois law professor Jay P. Kesan says the current “non-negotiable approach” to user privacy is in need of serious revision, especially with the increased popularity of web-based software that shares information via cloud computing. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

When Web surfers sign up for a new online service or download a Web application for their smartphone or tablet, the service typically requires them to click a seemingly innocuous box and accept the company’s terms of service and privacy policy. But agreeing to terms without reading them beforehand can adversely affect a user’s legal rights, says a new paper by a University of Illinois expert in technology and legal issues.

Law professor Jay P. Kesan says the current “non-negotiable approach” to user privacy is in need of serious revision, especially with the increased popularity of Web-based software that shares information through cloud computing.

In a recently published paper in the Washington and Lee Law Review, Kesan and co-authors Carol M. Hayes, a research associate in the College of Law, and Masooda N. Bashir, the assistant director of the Social Trust Initiatives at the U. of I.’s Information Trust Institute, propose creating a legal framework that would require companies to provide baseline protections for personal information while also taking steps to enhance users’ control over their own data.

“Our goal with this piece is to raise awareness of the privacy of online information, which is something that people seem to care about a lot more once they actually know what companies are doing with their personal information and data,” said Kesan, the H. Ross & Helen Workman Research Scholar in the College of Law.

With so many of our daily activities now taking place “in the cloud,” Kesan cautions it’s still perfectly acceptable for users to give away personal information to online services – so long as they’re comfortable with allowing companies to snoop, aggregate and data mine their online habits.

Read more at: Phys.org

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