An Evolutionary Study of Cloud Services Privacy Terms

21 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2011

Date Written: December 12, 2010


This paper presents an empirical study on the evolution of privacy terms of cloud computing services. The purpose is to see whether the transition to cloud computing also means that users are bound by more intrusive terms of use that pose a greater threat to their privacy. In that direction several typical cloud services (e.g. GoogleDocs, Amazon EC2) are examined from their start of operation till today and numerous versions of their privacy terms are juxtaposed in an effort to pinpoint and interpret the differences between them.

The paper concludes that with the spread of cloud computing services more and more private information is indeed transferred under the control of third parties, but this mostly happens voluntarily. Industry trends also show an increase in sharing and combining the collected information. But in terms of how companies deal with the privacy of their users, all in all we notice a more professional treatment and a significant effort to abide by higher standards. Taking all that into account fears that the online environment becomes increasingly intrusive without the consent of users are overstated.

This paper proceeds in three parts. Part I identifies the special ways by which cloud computing challenges privacy. Part II discusses a series of privacy terms commonly found in the sampled cloud computing services and follows their evolution by comparing previous versions where available. Part III then goes on to analyze what the changes mean and whether they give reasons to believe that cloud computing will more deeply compromise privacy. The overall conclusion is that cloud computing does result in the collection of more private information, but this mostly happens voluntarily. Thus, this paper concludes, cloud computing poses a greater threat insofar as more information is being collected and shared, but from a technological perspective cloud companies do not appear to indulge in greater privacy compromises than necessary to deliver their services.

Keywords: Cloud, Services, Privacy, Terms of Use, Terms of Service, Amazon EC2, GoogleDocs, Mozy, Azure

Suggested Citation

Stylianou, Konstantinos, An Evolutionary Study of Cloud Services Privacy Terms (December 12, 2010). John Marshall Journal of Computer & Information Law, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Konstantinos Stylianou (Contact Author)

University of Leeds - School of Law ( email )

Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom

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