Does it Matter Where Your Data Lives?

This is a question that Michael Geist asks in his blog, and I have problems with the focus of this article. The suggestion is that the physical location of where the CPU, RAM and hard disks data is stored on should be our primary concern.

The primary concern should be who controls the software authors who write the software that accesses and manipulates our data. While there are a narrow set of circumstances where geography of the hardware matters, the reality is that we need to be able to trust the vendors who write the software running on computers physically located close to us as much as we do cloud software services.

Companies like Apple, Sony, Microsoft and others have lobbied hard for decades to transfer control of computers from owners to themselves, making data stored on computers which they control (Through iOS/MacOS, Windows, etc) susceptible to warrantless disclosure regardless of the physical location of CPU, RAM, disk.

While I agree we should be scrutinizing cloud service vendors as well, and what lawful and unlawful third parties can gain access to data, we must have a similar scrutiny for software vendors.

For those concerned with privacy/security I always recommend FLOSS. While not perfect, wider access to the source code provides the higher level of accountability and transparency in ways similar to what Access to Information and related laws offer a democracy. The more people use FLOSS the better the scrutiny for the software and associated commercial vendors, and the better privacy and security we all achieve. The more people use non-FLOSS, especially from anti-technology-ownership vendors like Apple, Sony and Microsoft, the lesser the privacy and security we will all be able to achieve.