“Cloud computing” takes many forms, but, fundamentally, it is a computer network system that allows consumers, businesses, and other entities to store data off-site and manage it with third-party-owned software accessed through the Internet. Files and software are stored centrally on a network to which end users can connect to access their files using computers that are less powerful and sophisticated than those we use today.  This technology reduces the need for expensive multiple servers and PCs with enough capacity to store massive data and application files. Some believe the PC of the future will need simply the capacity to connect to a web browser for the user to access his or her applications and files.

For more information on how cloud computing works, click here. For information on the FTC investigation of cloud computing, click here.

If you are not already computing in a cloud, you likely will be hearing more about “cloud computing” soon. Last month, for example, the City Council for the City of Los Angeles voted to move city employee e-mail and other applications from city computer networks to a cloud service provider – in this case, Google Inc. City officials cite significant cost savings (which they estimate to be in the millions) as one of the reasons for the switch. They acknowledged that concerns over data privacy, security and management remain.

We’ll agree that significant cost savings can be achieved through, among other things, reduced infrastructure. Questions and concerns many have with cloud computing, however, relate to the privacy, security and management of the information in the cloud. These include:

  • What if the cloud starts to rain – a cloud computing data breach – who is responsible for notifying affected persons (and bearing the costs)?
  • Which company owns the data placed in the cloud?
  • If the data in the cloud is employee e-mail, is the employer still permitted to access and monitor email communications? Will new policies/notices be needed?
  • Will company proprietary information be safe?
  • Who has access to the data? Who should have access?
  • Is the cloud service provider a business associate under HIPAA, prepared to comply with the HITECH Act? What other legal compliance requirements are there?
  • Do we still need to maintain a back-up of data in the cloud?
  • Where is the data stored? Is it in the United States, or in a foreign country subject to different data security standards? Does one location as opposed to another provide better access or security? What if data is stored in multiple places, will we be able to locate what we need when we need it?
  • How big is the cloud? How much can we store?
  • What if the cloud goes down? How do we get our data and access the applications needed to run our business?
  • How do we move between clouds? Can our data be held captive when contract negotiations fall through?
  • Can we put our clients’ data in the cloud? Do we have to tell them where it is?
  • What happens to the data if the cloud service provider or the cloud customer goes out of business?
  • Will applications in the cloud work the same way, be as flexible, and respond with the same speed as those on current PCs?

Organizations such as the Cloud Security Alliance have been formed to grapple with some of these issues. Indeed, the City of Los Angeles has had to respond to some of these concerns. So, while cloud computing may yield substantial cost savings and appear tempting, these and other questions and concerns should be addressed before moving in that direction.

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP)…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a principal in the Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently co-leads the firm’s Privacy, Data and Cybersecurity practice group, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Joe also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits practice group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Joe counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Joe’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Joe speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Joe served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.