One of the biggest issues facing individuals and corporations choosing to adopt public cloud computing (or any Internet service, for that matter) is the relative lack of clarity with respect to legal rights over data stored online. I’ve reported on this early legal landscape a couple of times, looking at decisions to relax expectations of privacy for e-mail stored online and the decision to allow the FBI to confiscate servers belonging to dozens of companies from a co-location facility whose owners were suspected of fraud.
However, while I’ve argued before that the government has yet to apply the right metaphor to the modern world of networked applications and data, there has been little literature that has actually dissected the problem in detail. Even worse, I’ve seen almost no analysis of how the United States Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, applies to Internet-housed data.
(Credit: Flickr/Thorne Enterprises) However, I just had the pleasure of reading an extremely well-written note in the June 2009 edition of the Minnesota Law Review titled “Defogging the Cloud: Applying Fourth Amendment Principles to Evolving Privacy Expectations in Cloud Computing (PDF).” Written by David A. Couillard, a student at the University of Minnesota Law School expected to graduate this year, the paper is a concise but thorough outline of where we stand with respect to the application of Fourth Amendment law to Internet computing. It finishes by introducing a highly logical framework for evaluating the application of the Fourth Amendment to cases involving cloud-based data.
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Fourth Amendment, Privacy Expectations in Cloud Computing (PDF), cloud-based data