Notes | Flawed Cloud Architectures and the Rise of Decentral Alternatives

Posted on Sep 21, 2021

The longest paper of the night. Abstract also looks like it’ll be the most useful. Here goes.

DOI: 10.14763/2013.4.212 - Source: Internet Policy Review Volume 2 | Issue 4

Summary

The author details the pitfalls of centralized applications and the consequences this has for end users and then works their way through a host of applications and software being developed by civil society. They then compare the policy implications noting that it is easier for a regulatory body to enforce laws when applications are centralized but end-users experience diminished autonomy. Conversely, in peer-to-peer and other distributed systems, it is much more difficult to regulate and, therefore, easier to break the law.

Quotes

“Most importantly, the shift from local on-premises operated servers to foreign servers aggregating data from many different sources into a few centralised data centres is likely to decrease the autonomy of users who become more and more dependent on the infrastructure provided by the cloud providers” (2)

The author notes and, at this point, we have seen how this reduces user autonomy because “cloud operators control the infrastructure of communication, the online applications, as well as all the content or data available on the cloud” (2)

“In addition to the obvious concerns that this might entail in terms of data privacy and security (Nelson, 2009), relinquishing control over personal data or information can also undermine users’ right to information (i.e. users’ ability to determine, by themselves, how information can and well be used) - a right which Germany has recognised as one of the most important parts of the general right of personality (Allgemeines Persönlichkeitsrecht” (3)

“By relying exclusively on the computing resources of individual users’ devices, it becomes indeed possible to create powerful and dynamic cloud environments which are not controlled by any third party operator, but only and exclusively by the actual members of the community (Marions & Briscoe, 2009). Re0-claiming ownership over the technical infrastructure of the cloud platform allows users to more easily control the manner in which and the extent to which content or data stored in the cloud bill be accessed and subsequently exploited by the community (Wu & al., 2010)” (5)

“decentralised cloud computing applications might entail higher management costs and greater security risks than their centralised counterparts, mainly due to the need for coordinating a large number of untrusted and potentially malicious devices (Camp, 2003” (5)

“Given the regulatory gap that characterises the cloud computing industry and the lack of political interest in filling this gap – especially in view of the pressure exerted by US government instittuions such as the National Security Agency (NSA), which actually expect online service providers to collect and reveal data from their user-ase – lobbying and advocacy from civil society is unlikely to result in any practical outcome before a long period of time.” (5)

Privacy, security, and resiliency are the foremost reasons to push for a more heterogenous network experience, but I do think the author is correct to point out that there is also diminished user autonomy. Can I find a measure of the effects that diminished autonomy has on democratic society?

“in order to regulate the activities of individual internet users, it is generally much easier for the state to rely on large online intermediaries, such as cloud operators, and delegate them the responsibility to enforce legal norms onto their users (Bartling & Fischbacher, 2012).” (5)

In 2021, the US government has effectively abdicated responsiblity for regulating tech and is content to let the public put pressure on large platforms to do a bare minimum of enforcement. AWS, Apple, and Cloudflare have all taken stances against white supremacist applications.

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