Yesterday, I gave a presentation on Cloud Computing and Employment Law at the Technology in the Practice and Workplace Committee Midwinter Meeting for the ABA Labor & Employment Law Section in New York yesterday. My portion focused on the basics of cloud computing and the legal issues (in a treetop fashion) that this topic may touch on. You can download the presentation here.
All throughout, though, I couldn’t help but think of the song "Into The Great Wide Open" by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
Why? Because that’s the state of the law in the workplace as it relates to cloud computing — wide open.
Want some examples? Type in "cloud computing" in any searches of legal cases and you’re likely to find just a handful of cases — one criminal case and one copyright infringement case. That’s it. No long discourses from the courts about this. So if you’re looking for court guidance, you won’t find it.
And laws? Well, try finding a law for employers that refers to information stored in the cloud. Or regulations. You won’t find them.
What you WILL find, are references in other laws that need to be interpreted (in the absence of new guidance) to fit modern-day occurrences. So, if you get a lawsuit and need to do a "litigation hold" on employer e-mails, that hold takes on a whole new significance when the information is stored on unknown servers somewhere in Ireland (and maybe in, say, Texas too).
For employers, this means that any initiatives that the company wants to do to move data or applications into the "cloud" need to be tracked closely. If information is stored there, it is imperative that a "map" of sorts is created to catalog where the data is and who is responsible for oversight.
The cost savings to be realized from cloud computing are going to be difficult for companies to ignore. But ignoring employment laws in the process will only cause further unknown difficulties in the years to come.
And because it’s Friday too, take a listen to Tom Petty’s song too.