Cloud Computing Contracting and Compliance: Why All Privacy Pros Need to Get Up-to-Speed

The cloud is going mainstream.

Many organisations are embracing cloud computing enthusiastically as a means to improve business processes while, potentially at least, making substantial cost savings along the way. Others, meanwhile, are proceeding at a more measured pace. Cautious adopters include companies that operate in heavily regulated sectors such as financial services and healthcare, as well as many government agencies and other large organisations with substantial investments in legacy IT systems and processes.

Whatever sector you work in, however, it is time to get to grips with cloud computing and, in particular, the privacy implications of cloud procurement and deployment arrangements. Cloud services are making rapid inroads in organisations of all shapes and sizes, including many that say ”officially” they are not relying on cloud services. This is because initial adoption of cloud services often takes place under the radar of privacy and security professionals and others tasked with managing technical, legal and regulatory risks.

At first sight, cloud computing seems disarmingly simple—indeed that is one of the reasons it is so appealing. By buying infrastructure, computing platforms and software “as-a-service,” it appears that you can streamline your business processes, offload most of your capital investments in IT—or avoid them in the first place—and benefit from extraordinary flexibility in deploying the IT services you require, and in scaling them up and down, without painful and protracted procurement and contract negotiation processes. Indeed, vendors may tell you that the solutions to all of your IT needs are just a few clicks away in various user-friendly app and cloud stores.

Under the hood, things are a lot more complex.

The cloud ecosystem is already surprisingly sophisticated, and the pace of development is very fast indeed. Once you start to look at how it all works, you may soon be wondering whether you can ever know enough about cloud technologies and services to be able to assess and manage even the most obvious privacy and security risks.

On top of all that, complicated contractual arrangements between cloud service providers and their customers, as well as the potentially crucial roles of various intermediaries, often make it difficult to work out just who is responsible for what and where the buck will stop if something goes wrong. You will probably find that you have to go back to first principles to assess whether data processed in a particular part of a cloud system will be regulated as personal data or PII and, if so, who is responsible for compliance and which laws might apply to specific processing activities.

You will certainly have to decide whether you can live with one-sided, standard form, “take it or leave it” cloud contracts. If you can’t, the next question is whether you have any chance of negotiating something better. and, if so, what specific issues need most careful attention and which might be deal breakers. Many privacy regulators treat cloud contracts as just another type of outsourcing, something they have become comfortable with over the years, but is it possible that this a fundamental category error?

Written By

Christopher Millard

1 Comment

If you want to comment on this post, you need to login.

  • Ramya Pillai Mar 3, 2014

    This March 2014 has more to offer you on protecting your data
    Join the Cloud & Smarter infrastructure event at Johannesburg (http://ibm.co/1coWWVp) and Security Intelligence event at Cape Town (http://ibm.co/1ggA1dT) that will cover vast discussions on how to develop and protect your IT infrastructure. 
    The digital data explosion and corporate control to fewer access points make IT security a strong boardroom discussion. 
    Protect your data today. Register now! 


Board of Directors

See the esteemed group of leaders shaping the future of the IAPP.

Contact Us

Need someone to talk to? We’re here for you.

IAPP Staff

Looking for someone specific? Visit the staff directory.

Learn more about the IAPP»

Daily Dashboard

The day’s top stories from around the world

Privacy Perspectives

Where the real conversations in privacy happen

The Privacy Advisor

Original reporting and feature articles on the latest privacy developments

Privacy Tracker

Alerts and legal analysis of legislative trends

Privacy Tech

Exploring the technology of privacy

Canada Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top Canadian privacy news

Europe Data Protection Digest

A roundup of the top European data protection news

Asia-Pacific Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from the Asia-Pacific region

Latin America Dashboard Digest

A roundup of the top privacy news from Latin America

IAPP Westin Research Center

Original works. Groundbreaking research. Emerging scholars.

Get more News »

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

IAPP Job Board

Looking for a new challenge, or need to hire your next privacy pro? The IAPP Job Board is the answer.

Join the Privacy List

Have ideas? Need advice? Subscribe to the Privacy List. It’s crowdsourcing, with an exceptional crowd.

Find a KnowledgeNet Chapter Near You

Talk privacy and network with local members at IAPP KnowledgeNet Chapter meetings, taking place worldwide.

Find more ways to Connect »

Find a Privacy Training Class

Two-day privacy training classes are held around the world. See the complete schedule now.

The Privacy Core™ Library Has Evolved

Privacy Core™ e-learning essentials just expanded to include seven new units for marketers. Keep your data safe and your staff in the know!

Online Privacy Training

Build your knowledge. The privacy know-how you need is just a click away.

Upcoming Web Conferences

See our list of upcoming web conferences. Just log on, listen in and learn!

Train Your Team

Get your team up to speed on privacy by bringing IAPP training to your organization.

Let’s Get You DPO Ready

There’s no better time to train than right now! We have all the resources you need to meet the challenges of the GDPR.

Learn more »

CIPP Certification

The global standard for the go-to person for privacy laws, regulations and frameworks

CIPM Certification

The first and only privacy certification for professionals who manage day-to-day operations

CIPT Certification

The industry benchmark for IT professionals worldwide to validate their knowledge of privacy requirements

FIP Designation

Recognizing the advanced knowledge and issue-spotting skills a privacy pro must attain in today’s complex world of data privacy.

Certify Your Staff

Find out how you can bring the world’s only globally recognized privacy certification to a group in your organization.


The IAPP’S CIPP/E and CIPM are the ANSI/ISO-accredited, industry-recognized combination for DPO readiness. Learn more today.

Learn more about IAPP certification »

Are You Ready for the GDPR?

Check out the IAPP's EU Data Protection Reform page for all the tools and resources you need.

IAPP-OneTrust PIA Platform

New U.S. Government Agency privacy impact assessments - free to IAPP members!

IAPP Communities

Meet locally with privacy pros, dive deep into specialized topics or connect over common interests. Find your Community in KnowledgeNet Chapters, Sections and Affinity Groups.

Privacy Vendor List

Find a privacy vendor to meet your needs with our filterable list of global service providers.

More Resources »

Europe Data Protection Intensive 2017

The Intensive is sold out! But cancellations do happen—so hurry and get on the wait list in case more seats become available.

Global Privacy Summit 2017

The world’s premier privacy conference returns with the sharpest minds, unparalleled programs and preeminent networking opportunities.

Canada Privacy Symposium 2017

The Symposium returns to Toronto this spring and registration has opened! Take advantage of Early Bird rates and join your fellow privacy pros for another stellar program.

The Privacy Bar Section Forum 2017

The Privacy Bar Section Forum is sold out! But you can still add your name to the wait list, and we'll keep in touch about your status. Good luck!

Asia Privacy Forum 2017

Call for Speakers open! Join the Forum in Singapore for exclusive networking and intensive education on data protection trends and challenges in the Asia Pacific region.

Privacy. Security. Risk. 2017

Call for Speakers open! This year, we're bringing P.S.R. to San Diego. Submit today and be a part of something big! Submission deadline: February 26.

Europe Data Protection Congress 2017

Call for Speakers open! The Congress is your source for European policy debate, multi-level strategic thinking and thought-provoking discussion. Submit a proposal by March 19.

Sponsor an Event

Increase visibility for your organization—check out sponsorship opportunities today.

More Conferences »

Become a Member

Start taking advantage of the many IAPP member benefits today

Corporate Members

See our list of high-profile corporate members—and find out why you should become one, too

Renew Your Membership

Don’t miss out for a minute—continue accessing your benefits

Join the IAPP»