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Cloud Computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like a public utility.
It is a paradigm shift following the shift from mainframe to client-server that preceded it in the early '80s. Details are abstracted from the users who no longer have need of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure "in the cloud" that supports them. Cloud computing describes a new supplement, consumption and delivery model for IT services based on the Internet, and it typically involves the provision of dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources as a service over the Internet.It is a byproduct and consequence of the ease-of-access to remote computing sites provided by the Internet.
FBI agents targeting alleged criminal spammers last year obtained a trove of incriminating documents from a suspect’s Google Docs account, in what appears to be the first publicly acknowledged search warrant benefiting from a suspect’s reliance on cloud computing.
The warrant, issued August 21 in the Western District of New York, targeted Levi Beers and Chris de Diego, the alleged operators of a firm called Pulse Marketing, which was suspected of launching a deceptive e-mail campaign touting a diet supplement called Acai Pure. The warrant demanded the e-mail and “all Google Apps content” belonging to the men, according to a summary in court records.
Privacy advocates have long warned that law enforcement agencies can access sensitive files stored on services like Google Docs with greater ease than files stored on a target’s hard drive. In particular, the 1986 Stored Communications Act allows the government to access a customer’s data whenever there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the information would be relevant in a criminal investigation — a much lower legal standard than the “probable cause” required for a search warrant.
The Google Docs search warrant, in contrast, was issued under seal and presented politely to Google, without an FBI agent having to draw his gun or sternly bang on a door. More significantly, and unlike most physical search warrants, the government has no obligation to disclose the cloud search to Beers and de Diego, unless criminal charges are filed. Beers said he’s received no notice that his documents were searched, even though nearly eight months have passed since Google handed them over. “I have not received notification from Google or the government about this search warrant,” he writes.