(image by John Moffett)
A ruling by NY District Court Judge William H. Pauley III has effectively resulted in revoking your ownership of your data if you use cloud data backup services in the US. Citing concerns about terrorists Judge Pauley ruled that if you turn your data over to third parties, then you no longer are protected by the fourth amendment. The idea that turning over data to a third party for storage negates your rights to that data is intriguing. Would Judge Pauley have ruled similarly about bank safety deposit box contents? Essentially you have turned your papers and possessions over to a "third party" if you store them in a bank safety deposit box. So do bank patrons assume that they have given up their fourth amendment rights when they put legal papers and possessions into a bank deposit box? I don't think so.
This is another example of judges in the US either not thinking their rulings on electronic data through thoroughly, or not understanding the issues, or both. Cloud service companies in the US might be just a bit nervous, and may even be contacting the NY District Court for clarifications at this moment. If they aren't, they should reconsider. How many people will continue to use cloud backup services when they find out that by "giving their data to 3rd parties" they have effectively lost all legal rights associated with that data? Not only can companies peruse your data, so can the FBI, NSA and just about anyone else apparently. By giving your data to someone to hold safely, you have lost both control over your data, and any legal rights associated with that data being your private property.
Anyone and any corporation using cloud based services now should spend some time researching this issue before they upload one more bit of data to the cloud. If you lose legal rights to your backed up data, how many rights does that extend to? Is it just your 4th amendment rights? Who knows? Further rulings along these lines could make cloud services a pariah to previous paying customers.
If you are using cloud services to back up your data now, think about it a bit more. Hard drives, thumb drives and recordable DVD disks are very inexpensive now, and keep your data completely under your control, with your 4th amendment rights intact. You can keep multiple copies in different places to be extra sure, and you will know your data is still yours. According to Judge William H. Pauley III, if you use backup services you have just surrendered your 4th amendment rights. Think about it.