A certain company known for its often astonishing leaps forward in user-oriented personal electronics announced yesterday its latest innovation that allows its customers to integrate all their devices (of course, manufactured by said iCompany) in the “Cloud,” the world wide web formerly known as “the Internet.” It can once again be said what they’ve done is leading the industry.
I found myself oddly troubled by this announcement, not because it is innovative, because it certainly is, but because it is an innovation that potentially has a dark side. In this brief post I have two questions about computing in the Cloud.
First, when I store a document, say this blog post, which I can rightly claim is my intellectual property, on the Cloud, are my rights as an author protected and do I own that digital document, even though I am storing it on rented server space somewhere in the world? If someone who “owns” that space I am renting either goes out of business, or decides they don’t like what I’m writing and storing, what protection do I have to retrieve my documents or prevent them from being misused or destroyed?
Second, as iCompany and others create more innovations to simplify the use of their products, aren’t they pushing the user further away from the true complexity of the device, and in the name of convenience, really dumbing us down, all the while marketing their products as being the epitome of chic techno-saavy? What is the technological saavy required for a device, when all you have to do is turn it on and tap the touch-screen? Beyond that, however, the user has no idea, and really is obstructed from knowing how that product works.
When I was a kid, I had a transistor radio. All I had to do to operate it was turn it on and move the tuning dial to listen to my favorite radio station. No more difficult than using the typical mp3 player, really. The difference is, though, if I was interested in how it worked, I could save up my allowance and go to the local Radio Shack and buy a kit to build one. I can safely guess that if you went to your local iStore, or even a modern Radio Shack, you can’t find a kit to build a real iWhatever.
So I ponder these issues. I, like everyone else who uses the latest digital technology, is faced with answering these questions. Or choosing to ignore them to be part of the techno-chic. I’m typing this post not on my regular computer, but on my smartphone. Guilt by association, I confess. However, do I get to defend myself by stating I don’t own any products by the great iCompany? I didn’t think so.
Oh, and the issues of security and privacy in the Cloud? That requires an entirely different post!