It Isn’t the Cloud: It’s Somebody Else’s Computer

Google+ was launched in June 2011.  It was Google’s response to the rapid growth of Facebook and other social networks.  Just two weeks after its launch, 10 million users had joined.  By October 2013, 540 million users accessed one or more Google+ features.  People created text, images, uploaded images and media, and interacted on the network.  All of these data were stored on Google’s servers.

On October 8, 2018, Google announced that Google+ would be terminated in August 2019.   Subsequently, the shut-down date was moved up to April 2019.  This was due in part to a massive data breach discovered in the spring of 2018 which disclosed the personal data of 52.5 million users.  This was covered up by Google “due to fears of increased regulatory scrutiny”.  According to the October 2018 announcement, 90% of user sessions on Google+ lasted less than five seconds.

Here is the announcement of the shutdown sent to Google’s G Suite customers (which include mail for ratburger.org).  This will not affect ratburger.org’s mail, as we are a paying enterprise customer, not a user of the “consumer” product which is being terminated.

All data uploaded by users of Google+ will be deleted starting as early as April 2, 2019.  Users who do not export their data prior this deletion will permanently lose anything they’ve uploaded there.

There is no “cloud”.  When you hear “cloud”, think “somebody else’s computer”.  When “somebody else” decides storing your data is no longer worth doing, it’s gone.  It’s only your data if it’s in your own personal physical possession, ideally with multiple backup copies on archival media with long-term retention.

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Author: John Walker

Founder of Ratburger.org, Autodesk, Inc., and Marinchip Systems. Author of The Hacker's Diet. Creator of www.fourmilab.ch.

15 thoughts on “It Isn’t the Cloud: It’s Somebody Else’s Computer”

  1. I’m beginning to think it may be time to resurrect my proposal for “The Data Immortality Foundation“, originally published twenty-one years ago.  All of these “cloud computing” vendors providing storage are using the wrong business model: archival storage with persistent URLs are not a service, but a cemetery for data with perpetual care.

    This could also, if done properly, be a way to insulate data (by mirroring in mutually adversarial jurisdictions) from censorship.

    The data would require ongoing migration to new media, but if the financial structure was done properly, the fee for immortalising data would, invested conservatively, cover the cost of storing it and making it available into the distant future.

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  2. If only we could put our data in some tangible form where we could make multiple copies of it, so the text itself could never be altered or destroyed remotely….

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  3. I have been doing computers since 1973. That whole time I keep all of the data I want to save on my machines, with backups. Multiple backups. Cloud computing? Every cloud casts a shadow.

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  4. So, John, is “Google Drive” part of G+?

    If they wipe that as well, it’s a godsend in a way as it’s pure hell to delete something from there. If one had shared something on Google Drive with someone then deleted the share and tried to delete the file(s), well it’s damn near impossible. Deleting the service, “Google Drive”, would be one way to get rid of the files.

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  5. Gerry D:
    So, John, is “Google Drive” part of G+?

    I don’t know.  They have so many services it’s difficult to sort them out.  As far as I know, Google Drive (which is enabled on many Android platforms) will not be shut down with the termination of G+, but I may be wrong.  There is no mention of Google Drive in the announcement of the shutdown of G+.

    I agree, Google Drive is so flaky I have abandoned it as a way to transfer files from my desktop to the tablet.  Now I use Cadaver, which provides direct access to the tablet file system, in conjunction with the WebDAV Server app on the tablet.

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  6. People don’t get that companies do things for themselves not for you.

    What stops them from looking at our information on the cloud? Is there really any privacy?

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  7. 10 Cents:
    What stops them from looking at our information on the cloud? Is there really any privacy?

    The privacy you take is equal to the precautions you make.

    If you post content in the clear, it is readable to everybody, including your cloud provider who will scan it it target adverts at you.  If you encrypt it, so that only your correspondents can read it, there’s no problem with cloud or any other kind of public storage.

    Need encryption?  Here you go!

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  8. John Walker:
    I’m beginning to think it may be time to resurrect my proposal for “The Data Immortality Foundation“, originally published twenty-one years ago.  All of these “cloud computing” vendors providing storage are using the wrong business model: archival storage with persistent URLs are not a service, but a cemetery for data with perpetual care.

    This could also, if done properly, be a way to insulate data (by mirroring in mutually adversarial jurisdictions) from censorship.

    The data would require ongoing migration to new media, but if the financial structure was done properly, the fee for immortalising data would, invested conservatively, cover the cost of storing it and making it available into the distant future.

    Something like this exists in Pittsburgh, including encryption, data migration, multiple backups at three separate geographic locations. It is a paid service. You own all digital rights to your data. It is currently guaranteed for your life plus 100 years; the duration will grow as the user base increases. It is called FOREVER.com (I am an investor).

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  9. I’ve tried to hammer this home to my family members. The moment your data is out of your possession, you have no control over it, and you have no guarantee of its security. The cloud requires you to rely on someone else you don’t know handling your security for you.

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  10. The Sinistral Bassist:
    I’ve tried to hammer this home to my family members. The moment your data is out of your possession, you have no control over it, and you have no guarantee of its security. The cloud requires you to rely on someone else you don’t know handling your security for you.

    You mean we can’t trust “Big (Corporate) Brother”.

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