‘The Cloud’ really is just a buzzword, but it holds tremendous power. With the advent of always connected smartphone and tablets, which, by design have little onboard storage, the ability to store and retrieve documents and content from anywhere in the world has gone from a neat idea to a necessity. As more and more people buy smartphones ‘the cloud’ will become more and more ingrained in our lives.
Whenever I talk about ‘the cloud’ to pretty much anyone who knows what that term means, they usually start telling me why it will never succeed. They bring up valid points such as ‘How do I access my content without the internet?’ or ‘what happens if the cloud goes down?’.
While these are valid concerns, these problems have mostly been solved. For example, Google and Dropbox allow you to access your content offline by synchronizing the data to your device while online. Furthermore, there hasn’t been a major failure of any cloud system in recent history (the EC2 issues were really about their clients not using the redundancy EC2 offers), thus these concerns are not the real problem with the cloud.
The real problem is that companies are asking us to give up ownership of our digital life, in exchange for connivence.
Some may argue that we’ve always just ‘licensed’ use of our content anyway, so this makes no difference. I mean sure, when you buy a game in a store, you’re not paying for the plastic disc it comes on, you’re actually paying for a license to play the game, the disc is just the delivery method. That said, before the advent of the cloud, it was nearly impossible for content providers to revoke your license to play the game, the cloud makes it not only feasible but almost impossible not to.
Just recently Microsoft kicked a user off their cloud for uploading partial nudes to his personal storage, just last night I was unable to watch videos I purchased from Google due to a ‘license check error’, I have friends who couldn’t play purchased games due to being banned from their Xbox Live / PSN accounts.
The question is, can you blame companies that do this? If you violate the terms of the agreement, they have to take action to protect the rest of their users, although banning access to your account has the (un ?) intended side effect of preventing you from accessing the rest of the services tied to your account.
As a society who’s rapidly hurling towards a cloud dominated lifestyle and the connivences it affords, should we allow companies to do this? Should we willingly give up the rights to our content? I think it’s clearly unacceptable, but would it be acceptable to allow users to violate their agreement with no consequences? Clearly, I don’t have the answer, but I think a society that’s coming to rely on the cloud, these are some questions we really need to think about.