MS Sets Cloud Computing Policy for Future Apps Online

Dennis Faas's picture

Microsoft has assured users that it will strive to give cloud computing customers the same privacy commitments given to those using desktop software. But it warns that this could be limited by government regulations, particularly where data is transferred across international borders.

Cloud computing is a broad term, but generally refers to set-ups where data, an application, or even an operating system is stored on, and operative from, a remote server rather than a user's computer. As Microsoft notes, it's not a new idea: Hotmail is an example of a cloud-based service, with the emails and processing software stored online.

Cloud Computing: May be the Future for Microsoft

However, the system is growing ever more important to Microsoft, with the company now planning slimmed down versions of applications such as Microsoft Office which run entirely online. There is even speculation that one day Windows will be replaced by an entirely online operating system, though this is hardly imminent.

In a new report, Microsoft acknowledges that there is natural concern about how user data and privacy is protected in a cloud-based service. That makes sense as, even though any Internet-connected computer makes data more vulnerable, users understandably have a different psychological attitude to data which is kept outside of their home. (Source:

Privacy Polices Pinned On Principles

Microsoft is aiming to reassure customers by stressing its principles, which include only collecting data which is genuinely needed, informing customers what data is being collected and how it will be used, and giving them as much control as possible about opting out of such collection.

It is also emphasizing that it has a very different policy with business customers, namely that the business itself decides what data is collected and who can access it. It likens this approach to the way the owner of an office block exercises very little control over the way a company renting floor space uses the facility.

Legal Barriers A Possibility

However, the firm is reminding clients that there may be legal restrictions to they way it carries out these principles. In particular, there may be situations where data moves from one country to another and Microsoft is caught in a position where two different sets of national laws on data handling directly conflict with one another. (Source:

It's no coincidence that Microsoft should publish the paper now. It comes just weeks after an outage at a Microsoft-owned server left many owners of the cloud-based Sidekick smartphone unable to access data. While that wasn't a privacy situation in itself, it did threaten to damage the reputation of cloud computing as a concept and Microsoft its provider.

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