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How do feel about storing your writing on the “cloud”?

I heard a story on NPR about how much easier it has become for others to access our private information, even health-related records which are supposed to be protected under HIPPA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) because it’s now stored electronically. (This article is what the story was based on, unfortunately, I can’t find the audio link).

With a simple subpoena, our Facebook and Twitter posts, the content of our emails, text messages, photos and even medical records (more than what they might have gotten if it were being copied one page at a time) can be easily turned over. And in some states lawyers can get a subpoena without police involvement or probable cause.

You may think you have nothing to worry about or nothing to hide – but I’m not sure that’s the point. The part that has me wondering, it’s the fact that what we write and share online is not considered ours and it’s certainly not considered “private,” because it’s electronic. The thing that caught my attention was that we don’t own our content or what we say when we put it on Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Media site, those websites do. And if we have stuff in the “cloud” – and believe me I do – “they” might be able to access it. Who are “they”? I know I’m starting to sound paranoid, right?

“They” can be anyone who wants to know more about you. Maybe it’s someone you get into a car accident with and even though it was clearly his fault, he gets a lawyer who starts looking into you. The lawyer finds your Facebook posts — the ones about how you haven’t been sleeping so well lately. Bam! They use it against you because maybe you were sleep deprived, unable to concentrate, and now maybe the accident was your fault and not the other guy’s.

What is the Cloud?

Let me back up and explain, in very basic terms — because Wikipedia’s was waaaay too technical, even for me! The cloud is a general term that refers to the storage of your information or data virtually, so you can access it anywhere you are with any device that can connect to the internet. You data is synced so that if you update your blog ideas document using your Mac laptop, but then later use your iPad to add a new idea, you will have access to the most updated version. Your data might be your writing, photos, documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and so on.

Anything you can store on your computer’s hard drive can be stored in the cloud. Here are some well-known companies that use the cloud that you might be familiar with: Apple’s iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive, Dropbox, Evernote, and many others.

So I started thinking …

Dangerous, I know … but I started thinking about other scenarios, besides that car accident one. What about my writing? I’ve mentioned before that I love Evernote and wrote about it here and by the way, they’ve made some excellent updates since that post. And I was even recently wishing that Scrivener would hurry up and come out with a cloud based program so I could access my writing anywhere. Right now I have Scrivener on my Mac, but I have a Windows desktop too. If I’m sitting at my desktop and an idea or dialogue strikes, I can’t just open my file and keep working on it if I don’t have my laptop around. If Scrivener was cloud-based, I could access my story any time, on any device — add notes, edit scenes, etc.

But then I heard that NPR story and thought maybe I should take all of my writing off of the cloud. Funny how I wasn’t too concerned about my other info — but my writing yes! Now that’s personal stuff and I wouldn’t want anyone seeing it until I want them to see it.

Some people are working on making stronger laws about accessing electronic information from social media, email clients, the cloud, medical-related, and so on. But until I know I can keep prying eyes off of my cloud, I think I am going to reassess what I keep up there.

big white cloud in expansive sky

Photo from mvw65 on Flickr

What about you?

  • What do you think about the cloud?
  • Do you use it?
  • Do you use it for your writing?
  • And, how would you feel if someone legally received access to everything you have stored in your cloud but you didn’t want them to?