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Technology: Ethical and business concerns over employee’s use of virtual storage

Virtual storage offers a convenience that should not be overlooked

After a major upgrade of our computer system, internal business policy restrictions prevented the installation of a cloud- or web-based storage account for individual use. This naturally led to an investigation of the legal, business and ethical implications of such accounts.

There are many different service providers available, such as Dropbox, Windows Live Mesh, SpiderOak, SugarSync, iCloud, Box and Wuala. Each of these services provides an interface program that permits the transfer and management of data via the Internet to and from remote data centers that contain multiple servers and massive amounts of computer data storage (i.e., hard disk drives).

However, not all of the services encrypt the actual data before storing it in the account. Using a service that provides protection for all three levels should be justifiable from an ethical standpoint. Whether a client or a court—if information is subject to a protective order—would consider the protection sufficient is on an ad hoc basis depending on the confidentiality level of the information. The best solution is encryption before files are sent to the third-party storage provider, using locally stored and generated encryption information. The number of service providers with this option are more limited, as are the number of independent encryption programs that operate seamlessly on various operating systems (e.g., Windows, Mac, Android, etc.), but they do exist.

The other main consideration is record-keeping and version control. There is no “tracking” of a file that is dragged-and-dropped to virtual storage from a desktop or mobile device. Finding security breaches or simply reconstructing past events becomes difficult.

Contributing Author

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James Hanft

James E. Hanft is counsel in the Intellectual Property Group of Schiff Hardin LLP. He has been counseling clients and prosecuting and litigating patents for...

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