FTC urged to investigate cloud computing security

Chicago (IL) – The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy group out of Washington state, has approached the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in an attempt to have an investigation launched into the cloud-computing services offered by Google.

Google’s cloud services include Google Docs, Gmail, Calendar and others. The privacy group wants to make sure these services will be as secure as Google has promised.

With the use and popularity of cloud computing services on the rise among businesses and consumers increasing the potential for risk dramatically, EPIC is concerned now because the matter is becoming pressing.

The privacy group is specifically concerned with issues stemming from reports earlier in the month about a bug in Google Docs which exposed to the public documents which users believed were private. The glitch supposedly affected 0.5% of all documents stored online via the service.

EPIC has pointed out in their petition to the FTC that the language utilized by Google to market the cloud computing service indicates to users their documents are totally safe — claiming that users can “rest assured that your documents, spreadsheets, and presentations will remain private unless you publish them to the Web or invite collaborators and/or viewers.” Clearly, in the incidents which occurred last month this was not the case even if it was only the result of human error or a software bug.

Google claims that the Google Docs problem earlier in the month occurred in instances where individuals had made the decision to collaborate on more than one document, and adjusted their settings to allow for the access of documents by others. Unintentionally, collaborators were then given access to other documents and not only the ones the document owner intended.

Other security breaches and issues which occurred prior to January 2007 are cited by EPIC. Since January 2007, no major breaches have occurred. In January 2007 a security flaw which involved Google Desktop was discovered.

See EPIC’s complaint (PDF).