Dear Cloud, It’s Not You, It’s Me. No — Wait. Actually, It Is You.

Privacy  /  Tech Today

Angie Harms - Sad Cloud Graffiti

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Dear Cloud,

I remember the day we first met. You wore white. And you came into my life promising so much: you promised to give me everything I care about, from anywhere. You were the latest fabulousness, the new it everyone wanted. You had a charming way of stopping complicated conversations with four little words: “It’s in the cloud.”  What more could anyone add? Mic drop. And so you promised to set us free with your vague magic. And yet… and yet.

Cloud, I’ve been doing some work on myself, and I’ve come to realize what you actually do isn’t so mysterious. I’ve learned some things, and I’m writing to tell you we’re done. I’ll be coming by to pick up my stuff.

You have died of dysentery. Oregon TrailI know this might sound harsh, and I guess we’ve been together long enough that I owe you an explanation. Please try and understand. You know – because you like older guys – that I’m from the first generation to grow up with personal computers. We started out with green text and Jimmy dying of dysentery on the Oregon Trail. These plastic boxes that lived in the corner near stacks of newspapers (never mind what those were) were used to educate, entertain, and even make pictures and words that we could make real through the dulcet screeches of dot-matrix printers. Then computers started being connected to the phone line. We could call other computers! We could participate on chat boards, and read green text from anonymous folks living who knows where. We were so young.

Cloud, I’ve been doing some work on myself, and I’ve come to realize what you actually do isn’t so mysterious. I’ve learned some things, and I’m writing to tell you we’re done. I’ll be coming by to pick up my stuff.

Then things started going fast. All these one-to-one connections became one-to-many, which became the Web – the Information Superhighway!  — which wasn’t really a highway so much as a bunch of lilly pads to hop between, and for awhile, we stuck to sending messages in bottles back and forth. Then commercial use of the Web was a thing, and we could find useful things like movie times, and midi music, and hamster dances, and cats, and sex. Of course with all that free roaming came infections, so we protected ourselves with virus scanners and anti-virus software, continuing to share the love, and shaping the Web into a universal repository of everything (but mostly cats and sex).

That’s when you came along. In 2006, Eric Schmidt at Google referred to web-based software and services as living “in a cloud somewhere,” and there you were. So cute. So 2.0. Now we could use web sites to store and to produce things. We could play games on them. Cats and sex still ruled, but we could enjoy them in so many more ways. There were web-based office productivity suites, and remote storage. There was Dropbox, and One Drive. And there was iCloud, where you could store and replicate files and photos on all connected devices. Incredible. But then you always did turn heads.

wedding photographer failRemember those first days? You were so free, Cloud. And awesome. But then the honeymoon ended. I guess I should have seen it coming.

I remember how it started: when you told me you owned my work product and files (or was it that you had extensive rights to it?).

Your Terms of Service went from something I could read in a checkout line to dense thickets of shifting legalese. I always agreed, of course, though that meant giving up my first-born or right foot for all I knew. Why? Because the promises you made were more important than my desire to know what you really wanted from me. And so I rushed to give you all my personal data. I trusted you with pictures of family, and friends (and, okay, maybe some sex and cats).  Until September 21, 2014, when something bad happened. Nude photos of 26 celebrities were stolen from private iCloud accounts, and published openly on the Internet. That’s when I started to wonder about you. What were you, really? And why should I trust you with everything?

I remember how it started: when you told me you owned my work product and files (or was it that you had extensive rights to it?).

There is no cloud. It's just someone else's computer.And as I started paying more attention, I learned what you were really up to. First, call me gullible, but you’re not a nebulous accumulation of water vapor. Not even close: you’re someone else’s computer!   And my personal stuff could be sitting on one — possibly thousands — of these machines, according to algorithms that distribute it based on frequency and location of requests for it. My stuff is available to me all the time because it’s also available to anyone who administrates you, Cloud. It’s also available to  anyone who can pretend to be me, or anyone who pretends to administrate you. Hacking happens. And once my stuff gets out into the wild of the open Internet, it can never come back again. Which is a bummer, and more than a little scary. But you know what, Cloud? That’s not even what I’m upset about. It’s what you do behind the scenes with my files and information that keeps me up at night.

I thought we had something special, Cloud, but I didn’t fully realize how you considered us in an open relationship. You’ve been using me. You’ve been using my files, my photos, and my messages to build profiles to sell me things, then charge other people to sell me things too.

That same feature in Google Photos that identifies my cats can also identify other things of mine you share. Like you share access to me in my Internet browsers and apps.

Look, I’m not naïve. We’re all adults here, and I had my eyes open when we entered into this thing of ours. Call it codependent: I’ve been okay with you knowing what I’m looking for if you can help me. But to be honest, there are plenty of things in my files and photos I’m not sure I want you to know about me, and wouldn’t want you to use to profile me. Some things are just private, you know? I don’t want you to know everything.

I thought we had something special, Cloud, but I didn’t fully realize how you considered us in an open relationship. You’ve been using me. You’ve been using my files, my photos, and my messages to build profiles to sell me things, then charge other people to sell me things too.

And so, we’ve arrived here: I’ve decided to withhold my photos, videos and PDFs. I don’t need you using this information to sell things to me, my friends, my family, my clients, my cats, or anyone else I happen to have in my personal stuff. I may still let you hold on to a few awesome animated gifs  — of cats — but nothing that matters. Nothing to do with my personal history.

And, well, you probably see where this is going: I’ve met someone new. Her name is Mylio. She helps me access all my photos, videos and PDFs on all my devices without you, Cloud. Mylio works peer-to-peer so all my devices sync files discretely, privately, and securely over my Wifi or Ethernet network. My network doesn’t even have to be connected to the Internet.

I know.

Friends. It's the best thing.With Mylio, I can have all my files on all my devices, and the only place they ever live are on the devices I own, and the only people who can see them are the people with whom I decide to share them. I’d still like to be friends, though Cloud. We’ve got too much history to call it totally quits — I need you to collaborate at work, and we’ll always share custody of the cat gifs. But I’ve learned a lot about things, and I need you to know I’m moving on. I’m choosing to keep personal files personal without sacrificing the convenience of finding them on any device at any time. You used to be the only game in town, but Mylio has given me choices. You’re just not there for me the way I need you to be when it matters most.

I wish you the best, Cloud, I really do, but I’ll be telling my friends about you, and helping them make careful choices about what they share with you. I hope this change makes you stronger, and helps you do what you do best without my personal files.

Sincerely,
Osiris

 




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