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AGIMO outlines Oz government cloud rules

Wraps a net around the fluff

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Australia’s CTO office, the Australian Government Information Management Agency, is seeking comment on three documents outlining its attitude to cloud computing.

Its three guides, available here, cover the legal, financial and privacy aspects of government use of the cloud.

Agencies – and cloud providers – will find themselves having to comply with much stricter requirements than exist for most corporate cloud deployments. A government deployment into the cloud will have to comply with the separation of information between agencies, for example.

This is natural enough, since even before we consider military secrets, other examples of agency separation abound. The Department of Trade is likely to hold corporate information that it needs to keep in-confidence, even if that might be of interest to the taxman (such considerations led a Gartner analyst to conclude that the Westminster System could be a barrier to cloud adoption. El Reg isn’t sure that he wasn’t suggesting we abandon our parliamentary democracy, which doesn’t work too badly, just to tick a technology box).

That separation, the legal guide notes, may even extend to an agency needing to stipulate the hardware on which its data is stored – something which might restrict its cloud deployment to an infrastructure-as-a-service operation.

Agencies will be required to comply with Australian privacy laws if they’re to put personal data into the cloud; and it’s suggested that they should also audit facilities proposed for cloud deployments. Given that there are currently only 20 data centre facilities listed for use in the government’s data centre strategy, that doesn’t seem too onerous a requirement.

However, the legal guide also sets out liability recommendations that could frighten all but the largest providers. The guide notes:

“An agency should therefore consider whether the agreement with the cloud service provider should have:

• no exclusion for indirect and consequential losses (which will typically be the type of losses that flow from data loss and misuse)

• an indemnity from the provider in respect to data loss or misuse as a result of the negligent, illegal or wilfully wrong act or omission of the provider or its personnel

• a separate liability cap for data loss or misuse that is sufficiently high to cover potential liability arising from such loss or misuse.”

The guide also notes that subcontractors of cloud providers should meet the same requirements as the prime contractor.

However, the agency is also aware of the potential for the government to spark growth in cloud computing by acting as an anchor-tenant for providers. AGIMO is seeking comment on the guides until December 9. ®

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