Is Cloud Storage more dangerous than Physical Storage?

The advent of cloud computing has drastically improved the capabilities of computing including the management and processing of information. Cloud computing also provides organizations with a cheaper and more efficient method for using information which otherwise would be hard to access and track. The semi conglomeration of cloud computing providers, however, leads to many question about who really owns information and what they have the power to do with it. The four main companies that provide cloud computing services are Google, IBM, AWS and Microsoft. These four companies are not solely cloud computing providers, they are also businesses with other products that touch almost every aspect of the digital realm.

The access to information by these organizations is abundant, but as we’ve seen through numerous hacks and reports of misuse, the regulation and security of the data stored by these companies has room to grow. This is not an issue that is exclusive to cloud computing, but to any company that stores information. Unfortunately, it seems that personal information is almost always at risk whether it is stored digitally by Google or stored in hardcopy by Georgetown. I work in an office which deals with the personal files of students and the security of these files often seems lacking to me. This gives me pause, especially when critiquing the security and safety of cloud storage. It seems that the sole way to protect ourselves and our data from misuse is simply by not sharing it. That is difficult in more ways than one, since our physical worlds and digital ones cannot be separated.

Though we face the same risks of information being viewed and abused both digitally and physically, cloud computing offers malicious actors a veil of anonymity and silence. When data is taken from Google or IBM, often times the people who take the data remain unknown to the public. When data is taken from physical files there is often evidence left behind, whether that is a missing file or a person who is acting upon information that they should not have. The digital realm makes information hard to conceptualize, especially when it has been stolen. Knowing that IBM has been using Flickr images without the consent of users, is easy to understand conceptually but the impact of this is wildly misunderstood.

Cloud computing benefits us and the technology we use daily, but the risks of cloud computing can often seem greater than the benefits. I think that the dangers of cloud computing are sometimes made bigger by the media in the same way that AI and the impending doom it enables does. I wonder if cloud computing is safer or more risky than the storage of physical data in a warehouse?