Do you like dealing with your cable company or your bank? How would you like to resolve an account issue with them if they had cut off access to all your documents, email, contacts, pictures, links, and all else digital in your life?
It is important to recognize that the term “Cloud” is a pernicious misnomer. This isn’t Napster or Bit Torrent or a DHT. As both legally and technically implemented today, your vital data is not stored in the ether, owned and accessible only to you. It is simply stored on a huge corporation’s servers, accessible and controllable by them for any purpose and disclosure whatsoever, and with no protections for continued access by you. Ah, but Google are “good guys”, right? Well, any Google employee will tell you that the cult is not one of actions and good works of the form “do no evil”, but rather a self-ruling predestined “don’t BE evil.”
Anyway, we don’t have to imagine or guess what will happen. It has already has. Read the tale of Thomas Monopoly. There are bound to be many more concerning aspects of the still-experimental g+, such as this one. Indeed, my G+ invitation came through the artist and storyteller known as Cheeseburger Brown. He has now had to shut down his g+ account for fear of running afoul of Google’s anti-pseudonymity policy. Even as Google decides to make his commercial and artistic identity a social unperson, the man who illustrated the modern anticorporatist 1984 cannot risk loosing his gmail or blogger access. When I tried to comment on the corpse of his g+ identity, I am told only that “There was a problem updating your comment.” The point is not the degree to which these or comparable Facebook incidents are defensible or temporary, but rather that the Monopoly affair is not an isolated incident.
As a child I used to wonder how whole populations in history could collectively engage in self-ruination. Through the work of experimental economists such as Vernon Smith, we now know that people do indeed create market bubbles and bubbles of perception around ideas that they know to not be true, but which they’d like to get away with being temporarily true. Whether wanton violence during war or rapacious speculation in a housing bubble, people will abandon the rules they have always lived by as long as they believe that many others are now doing so as well. (I do not think we yet understand which people will abandon which beliefs under which circumstances.)
With this in mind, I have no doubt that people in this second part of the Information Age will happily give up their most important information to corporations that offer no protection for it whatsoever.
I do not think that the US government is currently inclined to help, nor the US voter inclined to demand protection for individuals. Read the tale of The United States v. Aaron Swartz. Among the principles we have collectively abandoned recently, is the dictum that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Hundreds of years ago, we designed our system of government with each limited-power group counterbalancing each other, and simultaneously modeled our economic philosophy the same way. But now we have radically allowed no limitation on the power, control, “speech”, access or operations of the largest corporations. We ignore the evidence of the effects of that we see today on our environment, economy, and government process. What we will soon have, then, is internationals answerable to no one, with access to everything.