The Translucent Cloud{1}

by Robert T
Technology is moving quicker than ever in today’s day and age, and you can’t discuss the ever fast pace of technology without bringing to light the concerns of security. In Jon Udell’s, “The Translucent Cloud: Balancing Privacy, Convenience,” Udell expresses his concern with the cloud services and trust of the end user. In the past, every time a user would like to save or back up precious information, they would simply save it to a tangible object. Something that was right in front of them. Something the user could look at and think, “this is where I keep everything that is important to me.” Something they would know could be safe, and under certain restrictions could never be touched. But how safe is our information now that its in the hands of the providers we blindly trust?

“When the service is offered for free, supported by ads that use my personal info to profile me, this exposure is the price I pay for convenient access to my own data. The provider may promise not to use the data in ways I don’t like, but I can’t be sure that promise will be kept.”

Sure the cloud may be convenient, and reliable to hundreds of thousands of people but how are we so sure that Apple, Google, or any other up and coming cloud service company won’t intrude on our personal files? It’s scary to think about, really. Especially when you look at legislation (SOPA/PIPA) that has been arising lately and diminishing the freedoms of your everyday citizen. Call it skepticism or paranoia but who knows, maybe at one point there would be legislation mandating cloud companies to survey and or monitor the information we upload to these clouds for illegal music, or software. Now, there’s a very small chance of it happening, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out. Jon Udell goes on to explain the work of Peter Wayner as a solution to this problem. Wayner illustrates a rather interesting concept known as a translucent database. According to Wayner, “Translucent databases provide better, deeper protection by scrambling the data with encryption algorithms. The solutions use the minimal amount of encryption to ensure that the database is still functional. In the best applications, the personal and sensitive information is protected but the database still delivers the information.” ( Perhaps this is the key into having the best of both worlds. The convenience of cloud software and the reliability and peace of mind you have with a tangible object.

However, we’re not there yet, and its ultimately up to the end user. You could keep all your data on your machines HDD, an external hard drive, or some sort of database, but of course you’re sacrificing the convenience and flexibility the cloud could provide. With the database approach, per lecture slides in class,  you’re definitely going to run into installation costs as well as management of the database. Obviously this topic is more focused on the concerns of individuals than businesses and their databases. So the question remains: security or convenience? It’s your call.

The article was definitely interesting. Mostly because ever since the cloud concept has come to fruition I have been asking myself the same question. How much faith can I put into these clouds that are storing all my information? I haven’t completely trusted it yet, and so that’s why I’m a little hesitant in jumping on board just yet. With that said, I know I’m not the only one to remain weary with the up and coming cloud computing phenomenon. It would be in the best interest of companies to ensure the safety of their users data, documents, and files by implementing something similar to what Peter Wayner explained.


“The Translucent Cloud: Balancing Privacy, Convenience.” 2012. Wired, Jon Udell. Retrieved April 1, 2012.