The Liberal Democrats have urged the government to reconsider the security implications associated with the public cloud, pointing to concerns around privacy and data ownership.
The report, entitled Preparing the Ground: Stimulating Growth in the Digital Economy, argues that the coalition is right to explore the benefits of cloud computing, pointing out that "it provides tremendous opportunities to streamline the use of IT". However, it says ministers must do much more to address issues around cloud security and data protection.
"We recommend that as a matter of urgency, the government consider the security issues involved with cloud computing, particularly regarding data location and segregation" it says.
"Cloud computing is an area where, if left unchecked, there is serious potential for abuse – for example, large corporations taking control of enormous quantities of public or private data outside the reach of national law."
One area of concern is how the US Patriot Act affects users of public cloud services based in the States. The act, which was introduced in the aftermath of September 11 attacks, allows the US government to retrieve data from datacentres owned by US companies without the need to inform the owner of the data.
Alistair Maughan, partner at law firm Morrison & Foerster, revealed at a Computing IT Leaders Forum last year that the Patriot Act has already impacted the UK government.
"I worked on a case where the UK government was unkowningly sharing data with US authorities, which was allowed because of the Patriot Act," said Maughan.
The Liberal Democrats are calling for the coalition to work with other governments and international bodies to create a body to set cloud provision standards and monitor suppliers.
The report argues that such an organisation should seek to be "fully open, containing elected representation where possible and [come] under the jurisdiction of Ofcom".
The Lib Dems' report comes at an opportune time, with the government recently reaffirming its commitment to the G-Cloud concept.
Ministry of Justice executive and member of the G-Cloud delivery board, Martin Bellamy, recently quashed rumours that the government had put plans on hold to implement a government-wide cloud computing infrastructure, insisting that the plans are "alive and kicking".
"The vision for the G-Cloud still remains intact and there is increasing progress on delivery," said Bellamny at recent Westminster e-Forum event.
"However, I think we need to recognise that ICT in government is something that has grown up over 20, 30, 40 years. When you have got an IT landscape that is that old and has thousands of unique business applications, it will take some time to completely refresh it – but the journey has started."
Bellamy even went as far as to say that the UK might look to adopt a cloud-first policy, similar that implemented by the US administration.
In November last year, Obama announced that the US government would allocate a quarter of its $80bn IT budget to cloud computing.
However, Bellamy was not specific on what a UK cloud-first strategy would look like and did not give details regarding budget breakdowns.
He did, however, indicate that the government would be using public cloud wherever possible, which might fuel Liberal Democrat concerns surrounding security and protection of data.
The UK's G-Cloud delivery strategy is expected to be published next month.
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