Fuck The Cloud

…and by that, I mean this entire notion that we can store our stuff remotely as opposed to locally on our own storage devices, and that we can blithely entrust our writings and thoughts to the whim of others like the monstrous entities known as Google, Twitter or Facebook.

All this came from reading this article, and I’ve tried so hard to ignore the reaction it caused in me; but nearly a week has passed, and I’m still enraged. Let me count the ways.

[E]ven your private documents can be censored online. This morning, a ton of users reported being locked out of completely innocuous Google Docs for “inappropriate content.”
Google’s abuse policy prohibits the posting of serious threats, needlessly graphic or violent content, hate speech, harassment, confidential information, pornography, and anything illegal including child exploitation and copyrighted content.
Today, however, multiple users believe that the content they were locked out of did not contain prohibited material. National Geographic reporter Rachael Bale, who was locked out of a draft of a story about wildlife crime, claims that nothing in her document violated Google’s policies.

Which is why I don’t store a single fucking thing at Google Docs or anywhere else in “The Cloud”, because on my storage device, I and I alone decide what is and isn’t “inappropriate content”, i.e. “serious threats, needlessly graphic or violent content, hate speech, harassment, confidential information, pornography, and anything illegal.”

Bloody hell; under those constraints, where would they put my comment that I’d like to tie Ted Kennedy to a chair and beat him to death with a lead pipe? (Uttered, by the way, while he was still alive and therefore not only “hate speech” — which it most certainly was — but it could even have been construed as a “death threat” — I fucking wish.)

What also gets me is the unctuously-correct statement by the author of this same article, to whit:

Nobody should be writing hate speech or death threats in their Google docs — or anywhere.

Fuck you, you simpering asswipe. I’d like to point out that one man’s “hate speech” is another man’s truth — which is why our First Amendment leaves out all judgments in its protection of that freedom — and my suggestion of this treatment of various politicians and/or technology executives could be construed as a “death threat” whereas it is, so far, just wishful thinking on my part.

Here’s my take on all of this. If I were a corporate executive and one of my subordinates even suggested using Goggle Dox, Twatter or Fuckfacebook [sp?] to store and/or communicate our company documents, I’d fire him on the spot — because I think it is the absolute height of corporate irresponsibility to delegate those capabilities to any outside entity, let alone to these techno-bastards.

All that said: I’m perfectly aware that the service these tools provide is in essence on their private property and that they’re therefore entitled to set their own terms and conditions of its use. But that’s not how they sell it, of course. They pose as public offerings: “Just post or keep your stuff with us: it’s secure, convenient, no-hassle and — best of all — it’s free!

Well, there’s really no such thing as “free”, is there? There are always terms and conditions — and more fool the people who buy into this crap.

Fuck The Cloud, and the cloud-givers.

And by the way, seeing as this post contains “hate speech” and potential “death threats”, I might as well go the Full Monty with this sketch by Agostino Caracci:

Art, or pornography? (And just so we’re all clear on the topic; according to legend, Bacchus [sic] is supposed to have raped Ariane. Doubleplusungood crimethink pornography.)


  1. Thanks for sharing, Kim. I don’t use any cloud based programs for any data backup, but until reading the article I probably wouldn’t have ruled it out for collaborative drafting. But now? Not a chance.

    What really got me most about the article, though, is that the author wasn’t upset at the idea of a third party deciding what a writer could or couldn’t write; her problem was that Google was improperly or prematurely flagging certain content. That is, her problem was censoring “draft” or “raw” content before it could be “polished” to comply with the cloud host’s “standards” or “guidelines.” That’s the scariest part of the article to me, at least — the problem should be the imposition of a third party’s standards on private content.

  2. A fairly large number of companies have learned this same lesson with managed services (e.g. Amazon AWS, et al). It’s so much easier and cheaper not to have to 1) learn anything about your computing infrastructure, 2) hire anyone who knows anything about your computing infrastructure when you just hand it all off to a large corporation and blindly accept their terms of service.

    … and then it breaks, and you realize you have no guarantee of service, and you look like a bumbling fool compared to your competitors who run their own infrastructure. And yes, a plethora of companies have looked equally foolish and brought just as many disasters upon themselves running their own ship– the key difference being the latter had some ability to do something about it when it all hit the fan.

    The middle-management groupthink for the last 5+ years has been: Owning infrastructure is crazy. Everyone uses managed services. I’ve carved out a tidy little niche in my consulting business illustrating just how apocalyptically stupid this is. The same applies to the end user. Yeah, there’s a time and a place for “not my server, not my problem” convenience– however, if you trust ANYthing remotely sensitive to that convenience, you have the intellectual capacity of a diced carrot.

  3. I’m with you, Kim.
    The “cloud” seems to be the going thing nowadays, but I never use it if I can get away with it, because of the reasons you stated. Where I work, however, there are times when I am forced to use it. In those cases I *always* have a local backup. Always.

  4. What’s the saying?

    “There’s no such thing as ‘the Cloud.’ There’s just a server that you don’t own.”

  5. Although I agree completely with you on the theory that “if you can’t stand on top of it with a weapon, you don’t really own it”, the rest of the corporate world does not appear to see a problem. The sad fact is that almost no organization has its data storage and servers in the backroom any more. Before we learned to call it “the cloud”, it was a hired rack in some server farm somewhere (Rackspace, Cyrus One) and, even if “your racks” were in a corner of their facility with a chain link fence around them, you still don’t own your data in the way you would like.
    In the corporate and even the financial world, that ship has sailed. In the personal world, you have to actively work to keep your data out of the cloud as every application wants to “help” you by storing it there and, of course, examining it thoroughly. As a professional in this business, I don’t even bother arguing about it with my customers any more. Doing so just brands me as an old curmudgeon, which is true, of course, but fatal in the marketplace.

  6. *expels very large, loud and gaseous fart in the corporate boardroom*

    There. There’s mah clowd. Enjoy gagging on mah terms of servitude!


    Things that didn’t happen today in Corporate America, but damn well should!

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  7. There is another aspect to this that has always put the “cloud” under the no way, no how, not going to do it, for me.

    (From memory) a law was passed in the mid-70’s, data stored on a 3rd party for more than 6 months without being accessed, was considered “abandoned”, and the gov’t could request it without a warrant. That worked because storage was so expensive that data wouldn’t be stored for more than 6 months, and companies owned their own infrastructure.

    Fast forward to the mid-2000’s. The gov’t requested emails without a warrant from Yahoo, and the court case that went up eventually was decided where Yahoo had to release the emails older than 6 months under the old law. Today, it’s done under NSL requests from the gov’t, and the NSA has a datacenter in Utah to store the information.

    When I was researching the cloud, I ran across legal opinion that the above could be expanded to documents stored in the cloud, under the same premise.

    Given how various gov’t agencies have used information to target people and groups, I can’t see providing them with the information for free.

    1. Seems like there might be a market for an application that logs into your email periodically and accesses every message older than a month.

  8. Heaven forfend that someone compare and contrast the writings of – say – Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao and try to store that in a cloud…

  9. “There is no cloud. It’s just someone else’s computer.”

    I have a Gmail account, but its address only gets handed out to likely spammers and I rarely check it for new mail. My primary email is on an offshore VPS, with all incoming mail encrypted to my PGP key (if it isn’t already). If something were to happen with the VPS, my home directory (including my email archives) and config files are backed up locally and can be uploaded to another VPS or a local server.

    I uploaded my music collection to Goolag at one point as well to have access to it anywhere (anywhere I could get cellular data or WiFi, anyway), but now that I have a 128GB MicroSD card in my phone, the copy that Goolag has is less important (and it is just a copy…primary storage is a FreeNAS box parked next to the TV at home, backed up to another FreeNAS box at work).

  10. Which is why I don’t store a single fucking thing at Google Docs or anywhere else in “The Cloud”, because on my storage device, I and I alone decide what is and isn’t “inappropriate content”

    Careful–“your storage device” may be less yours than you think. Amazon has at least once deleted content people bought off their devices. (IIRC it was a book that was later determined the publisher didn’t have rights to. People who’d bought the book and downloaded it discovered one day that Amazon had deleted it off their devices. Only protection there is to break the DRM and store a copy of the files where the app can’t get to it.)

    1. I don’t buy e-books — I buy paper, or nothing. I don’t download movies — if I like a movie enough, I buy the DVD. I don’t download music — if I like the band/music enough, I buy the CD.
      And if I do like something on the Internet and it suddenly disappears, I shrug and walk away.

      And I regularly back my hard drive up onto a 1TB remote drive, or the less-important stuff onto a thumb drive. Texts are converted into .pdp or .txt files, and I no longer have any math or stat spreadsheets of consequence because I don’t do that stuff anymore. REALLY important stuff is printed onto acid-free paper.

      Lots of people think I’m crazy. Time will tell.

      1. I download books, mostly because it’s cheaper and a whole lot easier to travel with. Music? I’m with you…buy the CD and load from that. If you can’t hold it, you don’t own it.

      2. I don’t think that’s crazy, but a tablet can hold a hell of a lot of books, especially if you strip the DRM and convert the files to a format usable by any other e-reader.

      1. That was exactly what I was thinking of.

        Seems like theft to me. I don’t think Amazon’s done this since, but the only defense is what I mentioned above.

  11. If you’re *paying* Google, Amazon, or any one of dozens of other “Infrastructure as a Service” or “Platform as a Service” providers you have a LOT more control over what happens.

    Note that they *routinely* pull this kind of shit on free services, but the *second* they do this to a paying customer (read their data) they are going to lose the kind of revenue that people get *killed* over.

    Google and Amazon have *literally* has billions of dollars a year at stake in the confidentiality and integrity of their platforms.

    As a private individual I will not be using Google Docs for anything, but as a IT guy (more or less) services like Google Cloud, Amazon’s AWS, IBM’s Cloud offering and Rackspace *are* the future. They are incredibly fast, relatively cheap, and about as secure as they can be made.

    That said, Google is evil. They have some sort of goal that is beyond just “make more money”.

  12. I have no confidence whatsoever that Google, in particular, isn’t reading every document stored with them. This isn’t rocket science, folks. And the Silicon Valley magnates have a track record of megalomania worthy of a Bond movie villain. Trusting them is playing Russian Roulette…with a Makarov.

  13. Related to my previous comment about using the cloud for surveillance, from the Instapundit this morning:

    Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is a provision of law that allows the government to conduct mass surveillance of innocent people, including Americans. The Hill reminds readers that Congress is poised to jam through reauthorization of this mass surveillance:

    The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has marked up the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, S. 2010. The bill, sponsored by Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is actually worse than existing law. It explicitly allows the attorney general to use [electronic communications] information collected under Section 702 for domestic crimes that have nothing to do with national security and forbids judicial review of that decision.


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