What does the whistleblower tell us about cloud storage of scientific data? Scientific cloud storage services offer a range of advantages to local storage: platform-independent and global access to your data from any device with internet access, automated data backup and prevention of data loss, the possibility to global exchange of information and virtually unlimited scientific collaboration. The trend is clearly favouring cloud storage solutions when handling scientific data, and more and more digital solutions emerge connecting scientists and their laboratory facilities worldwide for convenient and rapid documentation and publishing purposes.
Data security is not a new topic in the scientific community. However, the recent disclosure of large-scale espionage has fueled the security debate anew and unveils national interests in various kinds of data – may they be economical, state-protective or of other concern. In a previous article on ‘Scientific Data in the Cloud’ we already discussed various scientific cloud storage solutions and their relevant security aspects.
It has become clear that surveillance of internet traffic is happening on a large scale, with new details about countries that intercept communications or assist in the interceptions coming up on an almost daily basis. Thus, it has also become clear that when dealing with sensitive or economically valuable information encryption of communication is a must! For tools like labfolder, encrypted communication between users, cloud storage and servers is a standard since quite a few years, so concerns have to be raised where the data is actually stored.
Even though we all live in a digitally globalized world, the standards and policies for data security and cloud storage differ widely, still today. While legislative organs of countries like Russia, China, the UK and the US either do not state their scope of access or clearly state that they reserve the right to unlimited access, members of the European Union, Canada, Australia or Japan amongst others declare that they access any locally stored data only with a warrant.
At labfolder, data security is our highest concern when handling your scientific entries. As we write on our website, we apply and constantly update the most effective security measures available to our cloud storage solution. Our servers are located in Germany and thus are protected by European Union and German national policies – which are amongst the strictest and most protective globally. The level of security and potential third-party access needs to be discussed both in the scientific community as well as in the political arena in order to eventually agree upon and define global standards.
Realistically, several years might pass until then, so meanwhile you as a scientist (or as a scientific institution) should decide for yourself how you want to contribute to the scientific community, what services and cloud storage solutions to trust and under which conditions – and perhaps check as well where the servers for the cloud storage are located, on which you store your data.
 Business Software Alliance – BSA: Global Cloud Computing Scorecard (2013)