Unless you have been living in a completely isolated monastery, you are probably aware that the iPhone 6 was released on the 19th for general public sale (and the very first purchaser, a guy in Perth, Australia, dropped it while being interviewed on camera). Here in Montreal, a quick walk by the Apple store around 7pm on the evening of September 18th showed a line-up down the block already, of what looked mostly like students: young people ensconced in folding chairs and ready to stay up all night as the temperature plummeted to 2 degrees Celsius, just for the chance to get their hands on Apple’s baby.
This isn’t really unusual: there have always been early adopters who will suffer pretty much any hardship to get their hands on the newest technology before anyone else. Many people didn’t think twice about paying $1100 for an unlocked brand new iPhone, just as they didn’t think twice about updating their Mac laptop to iOS 8…which now includes iCloud Drive: an automatic syncing app that allows every image, document, and file you create to be uploaded to the cloud for storage.
Anyone who’s been using Dropbox or Google Drive for the past few years is aware of what cloud syncing programs can do — a convenient place to store your data and files so you can access them from anywhere, Dropbox even offers you extra storage space if you perform a series of tasks (like tweet about them, set up automatic uploads from your phone’s camera, and so on). Although iCloud Drive is not new in terms of technology, it is new as part of Apple’s integrated and proprietary OS, and it is only a matter of time before there is an app for iPhone and iPad that will make seamless syncing between devices nothing short of automatic.
This seems like a good idea in theory…but the recent celebrity photo hacks wherein nude photos were stolen from various cloud drives by hackers who are terrible people has drawn a lot of attention to the automatic acceptance of cloud computing. While touted as the number one solution for backups and data access, cloud uploading also means that information we assume to be private is available in an only tenuously-guarded public space. It’s sort of like if we took our favorite jewelry and handed it to a security guard who stands with them in a public square. For most of the time, he has his eye on them, although he’s also watching a lot of other people’s stuff. But sometimes the guard has to go to the bathroom…and it’s pretty easy for someone walking by to just pick up our grandmother’s necklace and walk away with it.
What are the implications of cloud storage for artists and creative producers? Even more so than users who don’t earn a living from their digital works, artists rely on their images to create not just their livelihood but their identities. Copyrighted images produced for paid clients, uploaded to the cloud, risk being shared widely and losing all watermarks or ability to support the artist at their work. With many social media platforms stripping metadata from images, there would be no way to follow up on where and how these images are being lost or disseminated.
Creative producers often rely entirely on digital media to sell and make their work. Creating one-of-a-kind pieces means you want secure backup — what if your home computer stored the only file you had of someone’s priceless photos and it was stolen or damaged? It makes sense to want multiple backups of unique creative works. But what does this mean when the cloud backup (also a convenient way for artists to show prospective clients their portfolio, from anywhere) is compromised? In the shadow of the impacts of sexual harassment (a valid and entirely proper conversation to have), the copyright issues of artists and creatives losing control of their work has not been discussed. As cloud computing becomes a seamless norm between devices, what might it mean for copyright and licensing as security falls by the wayside?
(Also, if you are as entirely juvenile as me and find cloud computing to be ominous, test out the cloud-to-butt Chrome extension)