Privacy in the Cloud

Video credit: Security in the Cloud – posted by CBC News



The CBC video offers a pretty simple explanation of what it means to use cloud based services. You may be surprised at just how much of your work/information is in the cloud. That’s because many apps and software link to the cloud to store your stuff. Services like iCloud and Google+ Photos, automatically back up photos you take with your smartphone. Sure, this may be convenient but when you delete that unwanted photo from your phone, you may find that it’s already been saved in the cloud.


Think before you ink

What about the privacy implications?

When you use services for learning that run on the cloud and store your content in data centres outside of Canada, your personal information (name, email and content) is subject to different privacy laws and may not offer the protection that our Canadian system provides. The Anti-Terrorist Bill (Bill C-51) made significant changes online privacy back in 2015 too. The important thing is that public institutions (like schools and universities) in BC are required by law to ensure that your information is protected and remains in Canada UNLESS you choose otherwise. But remember that anything you share online may be subject to surveillance in our interconnected world and your data is valuable, harvestable and it’s collection is often justified in the name of “personalizing your experience”, whether its buying a book or learning online.

How do you make good choices about using cloud services?

The web services of choice for research, collaboration and communication are often cloud based. In fact, using these tools is how you learn to become literate in the digital world. However, there are some things you can do to inform yourself and make use of the cloud services that serve you best:

  • Think before you upload! Review your privacy settings for back ups and sharing (especially photos) on each of your devices and be sure you are making choices about what you want to go to the cloud for easy access and what you want to remain private (like important personal documents)
  • Know your service provider and their policies (privacy policies and terms of service are a good place to start). You’ll want to know who owns the data once it’s uploaded. How easy is it to get your data out? Whose laws govern the contract – privacy laws differ across jurisdictions.
  • As cloud based applications become more convenient, they often pass your information between them – further complicating security issues. As an example, if you use Google products, check your Dashboard to learn what google is tracking “for you”. If you want to make any adjustments, go into your account settings to control what you share with google. For further reference, check out the 6 Links That Will Show You What Google Knows About You – by Alex Koloskov on Medium.
  • Create a strong password that cannot easily be guessed. It should not be the name of a pet, family member or other easily accessible information such as your phone number. This infographic gives some tips on how to create a secure password.
  • Be aware that individual cloud services, like any other business, can go out of business eventually. Tips on how to deal with this potential ‘worst-case scenario’ are outlined by NetworkWorld.


Technologies that are ubiquitous, interconnected, and allow easy access to the Internet have become deeply integrated in everyday life. At the same time, the online environment has increasingly been subjected to sophisticated and targeted threats; our ever-increasing reliance on cyberspace is creating new and significant vulnerabilities. This risk is magnified by a number of factors: more valuable electronic data is being stored and processed on a massive scale, much of it in the cloud; powerful and portable computing devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops are increasingly integrated into every aspect of our lives; information is shared, combined and linked with other information with greater frequency; and third-party relationships (e.g.: outsourcing to a cloud provider) are the norm. Unless all components are equally secure, the entire system is vulnerable…

Excerpt from Privacy and Cyber Security – Emphasizing privacy protection in cyber security activities – a research report from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (December, 2014)


The Digital Tattoo Project encourages critical discussion on topics surrounding digital citizenship and online identity. There are no correct answers and every person will view these topics from a different perspective. Be sure to complete the previous sections before answering the questions.

  1. What expectations of privacy do you have when using tools that are hosted in the cloud
  2. Are you cautious about using cloud computing services?

Add your comment below to get the discussion going!

2 responses to “Privacy in the Cloud”

  1. Codie McQuay

    The idea that the laws in the countries who are holding my data might be different than in Canada didn’t occur to me. I am cautious but will be more cautious and mindful after reading this section.

    Also with regards to imagining that my data will always be there. Perhaps the place storing it gets damaged or goes out of business, my data could be lost and is not necessarily “safe” from life’s misfortunes.

  2. elyse hill

    Thanks for pointing this out, Nicole! We’ve updated the link, so it should work for you now.

Leave a Reply