In thinking about some of the consequences that could result from the convergence of the technologies on one overall “unifying” architecture from one of the “big four” companies (Google, AWS, IBM, Microsoft), my immediate thought is to consider the dangers. First, cloud computing has seen plenty of controversy in terms of data security: “2010, for instance, witnessed a huge cyber attack on the popular cloud email services of Gmail, and the sudden discontinuation of cloud services to WikiLeaks by Amazon. There followed the 2013 NSA spying scandal, the 2014 nude photo iCloud hack and the Sony hack, with hackers increasingly turning to the cloud.” If all users of an architecture system had to use technology provided by only one company, data breaches could much more widescale than they already are, and effect more people than they would if people did not have various companies to choose to use services from.
Not only would we need to worry about security in terms of data breaches, but also in terms of what we as users “own” and what the company providing the services owns: “cloud computing suits the interests and values of those who adopt a deflated view of the value of ownership and an inflated view of freedom” (De Bruin 2010). In other words, cloud computing is designed for people “who care less about where, for instance, a certain photograph is stored and who owns it and care more about having the opportunity and freedom to do things with it.” This can be extremely dangerous, especially if we do not look into the nitty-gritty of who owns our information and where it is stored because we can be giving our work, data, and reliance on a company we may not fully trust. If we disagree with this company’s regulations for storing or accessing our information but need cloud services, we may be at a loss and left with the choice to succumb to regulations we do not align with or not having the technology to meet our specific hopes/goals.
As with all monopolies, payment becomes a huge concern. If one company controls the market, what stops them from charging any prices they choose to store our data on the cloud? Again, users are left with the hard decision to conform to absurd prices or choosing to forgo needed technology. Especially considering that many companies intentionally blackbox cloud computing services, many users will not be able to conceptualize fair pricing and could be taking advantage of users for more than just a hotdog.
Lastly, what concerns me about one provider is what happens when we experience hiccups or outages in our systems: “ To minimize the risk of interrupted service due to power outages, datacentres are located near power plants and data are stored on various different physical locations—the greater the number of locations where your data are stored, the more you pay…even then, things may go wrong. Cloud services may face problems as a result of which they become temporarily unavailable. For the numerous companies dependent on cloud services, this means interruption of their websites, their customer services and/or their sales administrations.” If we all rely on the same services, does it mean a more substantial piece of the internet is down than what would be if we had options? And again, more issues arise with the idea of services being down and pricing: “small start-up companies are typically affected most: cloud companies require their customers to pay more to store data in more datacentres to diminish the risk, but smaller companies are less likely to be able to afford this.” Too much control for one company is never a good thing, and can have serious financial, security, and independence concerns for users.
de Bruin, B. (2016). The Ethics of Cloud Computing, Science and Engineering Ethics, volume 23, 21–39.
de Bruin, B. (2010). The liberal value of privacy. Law and Philosophy, 29(5), 505–534.