Yesterday the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced "the final release of Special Publication 800-145, The NIST Definition of Cloud Computing." NIST's definition of Cloud Computing has been very influential in setting tent pegs in the ground to cabin the scope and discussion of the often nebulous definition of cloud computing.
It often makes sense to refer to an information security management framework or standard in an outsourcing contract, but this is usually not very meaningful unless the customer also understands what particular security measures the vendor will apply to protect the customer's data.
Security governance is often well established in large organizations, but privacy governance typically lags. It is time for a broader approach to "information governance" that focusses on the kinds of sensitive data handled by the enterprise and establishes policies to assure compliance and effective risk management, as well as better customer, employee, government, and business relations.
Data integrity is a potential challenge in cloud computing, with implications for both operational efficiency and legal evidence. Vendors should consider a standards-based approach to assuring data integrity, and customers should address the issue in due diligence and in contracting.
Service contracts that involve protected personal information should include provisions allocating responsibility for protecting that information and responding to security breaches. Increasingly, this means incorporating specific references to applicable laws and information security standards, and often certifications of conformance.
In business or technical discussions with potential investors, customers, suppliers, licensors, franchisees, or joint venture partners, it is often very difficult to determine how much needs to be disclosed and exactly who "owns" which information and ideas. Were the parties just brainstorming? Did they independently develop a similar approach to a problem? Litigation over NDAs can be costly, public, and ultimately unsatisfactory to the party claiming a breach, especially if it is hard to prove the intended scope of the agreement and the actual source of information. When is it worthwhile using NDAs, and how can they be made more effective?