Psst! Just Between You and Me…

I’m the Privacy Officer at my university, which means that I am responsible to ensure that the university adheres to its own privacy policy and I keep up to date on privacy issues and the law. One hot topic around here is the issue of Cloud Computing and storage of data in ways that are compliant with privacy legislation.

In other words, can we use an online solution such as Google Apps or or the like to store and retrieve files, thereby saving the University the need to purchase more servers? What are the privacy issues we need to consider while exploring these options?

Fortunately, we’re not the only ones worried about this. Last year, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada called a series of consultations across Canada, and posted a webcast of the final consultation which took place in Calgary. I highly recommend that you watch the video – it may set your mind at ease.

I am not a lawyer (thankfully, or I’d have to endure endless lawyer jokes like the one below), but this much I do know: public colleges and universities in Canada are under different legislation than private colleges and universities. As far as I can tell, public entities are forbidden by law to store data outside of Canada while private entities are allowed to store data outside of Canada. I also know that each Province has it’s own legislation, so before you take my word for it, check with your own privacy commissioner.

Let’s cut to the chase. If you want to store your data “in the cloud”, it could mean your data is subject to the laws of the country in which it is stored. There is the possibility that your data will be subject to the (oh-so-evil) Patriot Act in the US.  And if you store your data in the UK, my word do they ever have a draconian law that you may have to deal with! However, is that really such a big deal? After you watch the above video consultation, tell me if you’re still as worried.

What have we decided to do? Nothing yet. But we’re looking into it further. I’ll keep you informed.


Lawyer joke:

“How was copper wire invented?”

“Two lawyers saw the same penny at the same time!”



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