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ICO: Data blunders by your cloud provider still YOUR fault

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The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned businesses that they are still responsible for the safety of the data they own - even when that data is in the cloud.

The regulator put out guidelines today for businesses on keeping data safe in the cloud.

Dr Simon Rice, ICO technology policy advisor, hammered home the point:

As a business, you are responsible for keeping your data safe. You can out-source some of the processing of that data, as happens with cloud computing, but how that data is used and protected remains your responsibility.

Stay on the right side of their advice and you should be safe within Data Protection law - unlike the Scottish Borders Agency, which was slapped with a £250,000 fine for mismanaging a cloud company it had hired to store and digitise pension records.

Using the tale of the hapless Jocks as a scare story, the ICO recounted how the council did not have a contract with the contractor, and hadn’t made the necessary security checks.

Precautions that the ICO recommends include:

  • Having a written contract with the cloud services provider
  • Seeking assurances on data safety from the provider: asking about the physical security in data centres as well as plans in the case of hacks and security breaches.
  • Being aware that using a cloud provider with servers outside the UK brings a different level of data protection requirements.

A 24-page document of guidance is available from the ICO site [PDF] and gives a list of questions that businesses should ask before buying a piece of cloud.

The ICO is worried that many businesses haven't considered the data protection dangers that come with the cloud. Data storage is important and the stakes are high warned Rice:

It would be naïve for an organisation to take the attitude that these guidelines are too much effort to simply store some data in a different place. Where personal information is involved, the stakes are high and the ICO has already demonstrated it will act firmly against those who don’t meet data protection laws.

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