Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Cloud computing bad for consumers

In most instances, cloud computing is bad for consumers, as countless people have discussed. The new case of a woman losing her ebooks at Amazon is a good example of the problems with "the cloud". This one looks like a mistake, and she'll probably regain access to items she purchased -- however, an email she received from Amazon is revealing. Here is a portion of it:
    Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.
The bottom line is that, according to most cloud Eulas, the owner of the cloud service owns the things you've purchased, or the copyright holder does -- not you. Amazon is in the spotlight right now, but they're not the only provider with anti-consumer wording. All techies know this, but nobody else seems to.

This is why ebooks are sketchy, and so is iTunes and other cloud music outfits. Always download DRM-free copies of your online purchases, or you may lose them. I own a number of ebooks, but I purchased them with the understanding that I could lose them at any time at Amazon's "sole discretion."

I had one glitch with Amazon so far. I purchase MP3s at Amazon (I loathe Apple and would rather listen to vinyl than get my music at iTunes) and was outraged when they switched my account to automatically hold my music in their cloud, offering me their "cloud player". I sent off an angry email, and I got a reply saying that if I switch my settings, I can still download a copy, and they also said it was a global change to all account holders. I switched back (after specifically setting up my account to automatically download all music purchases to my local HD), but I was really upset that Amazon made a global change to everyone's settings, without notice. Seriously, they changed my personal account settings to something that could harm me, without telling me. Shameful behavior. They almost permanently lost a customer that day.

Another big problem with the cloud is inheritance and reselling. You buy digital content, such as MP3s, and you can't sell them. Nor can anybody inherit them from you. Courts are dealing with this issue right now. On the other hand, if your music is on, say, an external HD, you can will that anybody.

Ways I think the cloud is fine:

+ Banking. For a long, long time, I've been putting my money in a branch bank or direct depositing money, and then withdrawing at ATMs or branches. This is cloud money, and it works. What's different here is that you really own your money, legally. Plus, the money is insured, to a certain limit.

+ Cloud email. I've been using web-based email since the mid-1990s because of its availability and there's no need to synchronize. Works great. I haven't used a local email client on a home computer in at least 13 years. If I had sensitive emails, I may use a local client with encryption, etc.

+ I use a free, personal cloud account for backing up and sharing files. I wouldn't trust anything really important to a corporate cloud account, but for regular stuff it's fine.

The bottom line: never trust a corporation. They have their own best interests at heart, not ours.

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