Cloud Monopoly

We have previously discussed the socio-ethical impact, biases of algorithms and AI yet focusing on the companies that control it all, takes a different turn on the overall implications that cloud computing can potentially have assuming that it converted into this “unified” architecture controlled by the “big four”; Google, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon. As de Bruin and Floridi (2017) explain, Generation X and Millennials seem to “care less about” where their private information is saved or who controls it but rather care more about the efficiency with which they can use the that information, for example, a photo and send it to friends, alter it, post it or upload it, share between devices, etc. I think overall there has been a larger impact of cloud computing in our daily lives exactly because it is so easy and efficient and allows us to have all our information, documents, material, etc. stored and located in one place and accessible from multiple locations. We definitely rely on the efficiency of it all, more than what we actually question the overall concept of what is happening to our material when we do upload/save them on “the cloud”. However, there is quite a difference when the responsibility is split up among more and smaller sized companies and therefore you also get more services and products to choose from that could possibly represent your needs or preferences better. 

AWS defines cloud computing as: “the on demand delivery of IT resources via the internet” where you can access any tech services on an as-needed basis, you can use it for data backup, disaster recovery, email services, sharing virtual desktops, big data analytics, customer-facing web applications. It can also be used for personalized treatment of patents, fraud detection for finance companies, provide online games for millions of people/players around the world and more. Basically, your private or work information is somewhere on “the cloud” and even though it might seem private on your end, as the user who could similarly be accessing let’s say a notebook or a vault, I doubt most of us read the fine prints, where more details of who has ownership and what can happen to the material and data is disclosed and explained. “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 & Floridi, 2017, 22). In Cloud Computing (2016), Ruparelia mentions the three things that most us look for in these services and are usually what make us choose the company/product/service we will go with whether for personal use or business purposes. Integrity and reputation, you want to be able to rely on the product, the company and the service. Which means most of us will only trust companies who not only we know because they are famous but because many others also use. It is more likely that we will trust a brand we have heard of and know can be well supported. Another important factor that goes into choosing your preferred cloud provider would be the benefits you get from cloud computing such as efficiency and promptness. Having the ability to access anything you want from anywhere in the world at any time while knowing that it is in “good hands”, safe and reliable but also in a sense never disappoints. Forgetting your hard-drive or usb stick for example can lead to major issues especially if you desperately need your data in that moment, but with cloud computing that is not something to worry about since you know whatever is on there will always be on there. Finally, pricing of each product or service plays a crucial role in the selection of a cloud computing company that would supposedly match its pricing to what it has to offer in terms of space, accessibility, security, usage, organization and more. 

Moving cloud computing into a “unified architecture” provided only by Amazon Web Services, Apple, Microsoft and IBM would be imaging a different style of data storage, accessibility, manipulation and distribution of content. Ruparelia’s (2016) given characteristics of what we look for in our cloud computing services definitely become more conscience and give you less choices to choose from. Of course this also implies the power of everything we refer to as “the cloud” to be kept among the four companies giving them more flexibility to control the data and information that is uploaded on them? What happens to those fine prints on the terms and services agreements? Where does the date ownership go or rather who does the data really belong to? What about pricing? Would it become more expensive since choices are more limited and we won’t really have more options or would they actually be more beneficial and “get-what-you-payed-for” situation? Does having all of the words cloud split among only four companies and “kept in one place”  make it riskier and more exposed to outside threats? Or does it increase security since the “big four” could potentially work together to provide a “united front” again outside threat or even cultivate healthy competition amongst them therefore creating stronger systems and walls. Floridi and de Bruin (2015) discuss the power of “interfluency” when it comes to ethically effective communication among companies but also between companies and their customers. If the big four hosting companies have the same information or share a large part of it, they should therefore  by able to “provide and seek information about relevant issues such as consumer privacy, reliability of services, data mining and data ownership” (22). The two authors also discuss  the possibility of a stricter government regulation and overall involvement in cloud computing and what that could mean in terms of restriction of the use of cloud computing, regulating what we can and cannot upload, share, distribute, etc. and what its future will look like.