Acting Victorian Privacy Commissioner Anthony Bendall has called on cloud providers to adopt a 'privacy by design' mindset when creating services for government consumption.
Bendall told the Local Government Forum in Melbourne last month (pdf) that government adoption of cloud services is "somewhat inevitable", given take-up by private businesses.
However, he urged cloud providers to take the privacy obligations of government users into account to enable departments, agencies and councils to consume cloud services.
"If private organisations want to come to the cloud computing party and provide services to government, they should ensure they are compliant with privacy laws, because ultimately if something happens, it is the government organisation or council's data (and reputation) that is at stake," Bendall said.
"My office has already been consulted on projects where it is being used without deep analysis of the risks and benefits or a full appreciation of the impacts it might have on informational privacy."
Bendall highlighted lack of control as a key risk in turning workloads over to a cloud provider.
"Organisations usually give up control for cost savings and convenience, but when the additional steps required to ensure privacy protection are factored in, there may be no actual cost savings benefit to the organisation," he said.
Bendall urged government organisations negotiating cloud deals to "ensure that the cloud provider has appropriate data security".
"[It] sounds like an obvious point, but it has been my experience and the experience of my office that it is often overlooked in favour of other benefits, usually cost and convenience," he said.
"Data security doesn't immediately impact the bottom line like slashing costs on server maintenance."
Bendall urged government organisations to push for "an honest and fulsome discussion" with prospective providers "over what exactly happens when there's a data breach".
"It goes a long way to ensuring that personal information is protected," he said.
He also warned agencies against "de-identifying anything containing personal information
so that it can be stored on cloud servers".
"The resources required to de-identify information is often understated and overlooked," he said.
"There are also risks where de-identification is not done properly and a person can be reidentified easily with increasingly sophisticated data matching techniques."