24 March 2008

Cloud computing augurs storm

An article today on Google's web services approach to computing (often referred to as cloud computing) raises some interesting points on the future of software and web services and the trade offs in privacy control. While many speculate that cloud computing heralds a new era in using the Internet as an access point for information appliances, the article shows that there is a downside to all of this: the loss of privacy and the propensity for information to be subject to the US Patriot Act. In 2001 Phil Agre wrote a piece for the IEEE Spectrum called "Welcome to the Always On World," in which he foretold the coming era of mobile computing ubiquity, the precursor to the web-as-application space on which Google is setting its sights. Technology in this sense is the pharmakon - that which both cures and ails us. While cloud computing offers us excellent avenues for innovation for products and services in the information economy, we would do well to remember the unintended consequences as we construct new interfaces and information infrastructures.

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