Is Steve Jobs clouding my privacy?

Last week, Steve Jobs, the ailing CEO of Apple, announced a major move to cloud computing. I’m in that cloud right now, typing this on Google Docs. It’s a word processor that is on Google’s computers, not mine. I can stop typing right now, go to my sister’s house, get on her computer and keep typing exactly where I left off. No need to schlep a laptop, a CD, a thumb drive along. I don’t even have to save it; it’s done automatically every few seconds. And why buy a word processing program when I can use Google’s for free? You don’t need to drag your computer memories around with you any longer any more than you have to take your own electricity with you when you travel. It’ll be there when you get where you’re going.

The thing that worries people about the cloud is security. If I put stuff on Apple’s cloud, they’ll know all about me. They’ll have all my passwords. They’ll know my business. Right. Like Wal-Mart doesn’t? Like American Express doesn’t? Let me ask, is there anyone in the entire world richer than the people who run Apple, Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Facebook and Twitter? Do you really think Steve Jobs cares about getting his hands on your measly little checking account? That Bill Gates wants to see pictures of you and your kids at the beach last summer? As a matter of fact, it is in their best interests that the cloud stays secure and hack-proof.

Which is why you’ll never find the cloud. It’s hidden in thousands of anonymous, windowless, ugly buildings in hundreds of industrial parks around the world. Somewhere in that mass of ugly buildings you fly over when landing at any major airport in the country the cloud is hiding. The companies that run them don’t want you to know where they are or what they are doing. They rarely have a company logo on the outside of the building. Sometimes they’ll even make up a bogus name that is so unremarkable no one would ever ask what they do or what’s inside. A giant, boxlike steel building with “MRLT Corporation” plastered on the side with a half-empty parking lot out front won’t attract much attention in most big cities. And if a building called “LMNOP, the First Name in Medical Waste” burns down, it doesn’t matter to the cloud. There are thousands more of them backing each other up all the time.

It’s not the security of the cloud that worries me, it’s the credit card companies that still send me bills with my full name, address and account number on them by snail mail. It’s the doctors’ offices that still ask me for my Social Security number. They don’t seem all that worried that someone may get that information. You don’t need a password to get into my mailbox. They are always sending me special offers, again with way too much personal information printed on them. I can’t even simply throw them away, because you don’t need a six- to eight-digit password to access my garbage. Now I have to shred all that mail or burn it, because I never know who is pawing through my trash. It could just be a laid-off teacher looking for food, but it could also be an identity thief. It’s not the cloud that’s compromising my identity; it’s long-established businesses.

Who hasn’t gotten the strange telephone call that asks you if you just bought an iPod in Prague at 2 a.m. local time last night? “No? Can you please cut up that credit card and we’ll send you a new one?” It happens to me at least once a year.

“The card is in my wallet,” I tell them. “How can a thief buy something without having my card when I can’t?” I never get an answer to that question. I’m going to get on the cloud right now and see if I can find an answer.

Jim Mullen’s new book “Now in Paperback!” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

Copyright 2011, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.

Distributed by Universal Uclick for UFS

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