Cloud computing to be used for sensitive data storage

A number of public organisations in Scotland are being encouraged to outsource their computer storage of sensitive information.

Despite fears that this move could leave the data open to hacking, the Scottish government is advertising for a firm to supply cloud computing-compatible IT equipment, with this contract worth up to £20m. Scottish ministers have said that it will be up to the individual organisations to decide how the equipment is used and that the decision to move over to the cloud will also be left up to the organisations, which include educational institutions, health boards, councils and courts.

The Scottish government distributed guidance to all public sector organisations earlier this year suggesting that moving over to the cloud is a “priority option”, as it can save money and improve efficiency. The government also acknowledged that there may be security risks and has pointed out that data stored in another country could mean that it is under the control of a foreign government.

Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, has called for the issue to go to public debate rather than simply advertising the tender and handing out a contract. In this way people can be made aware of the issues, as it is their data that is being put at risk.

The Scottish government says that the benefits of the move outweigh the potential security risks, with some public bodies already successfully moving storage and other systems over to cloud computing.