I can’t fault lawyers for worrying about data security. Maintaining client confidences is not only a business necessity, it is an ethical imperative for attorneys. But I still scratch my head when I talk to lawyers about offshoring IP work and they raise concerns about preserving confidentiality. “How do I know my clients’ confidential information will be protected?”
As a matter of routine business practice, large multinationals have been sending sensitive information overseas for years. Any company that has chosen to outsource back office functions to India, the Philippines or China understands that data must be encrpted and that vendors need to be properly screened for compliance with appropriate security procedures.
In sharp contrast, walk into a typical law office in the United States and you are likely to see lots of paper lying around. Attorneys and non-attorneys alike bring work home on lap tops which may or may not be secured. And anyone who thinks that Asians are less trustworthy than Americans, just open the newspaper and read about the latest corporate scandals right here in the good old U.S.A. Theft of trade secrets, embezzlement and complex swindling schemes are hardly un-American (just think of the names Enron, Madoff, and name the latest lawyer in your jurisdiction to be caught with his or her hand in the till).
So maybe cloud computing offers the safest place for client data to be stored. In response to concerns that the National Health Service in the U.K. was planning to start handling sensitive health information in this way, here is what one legal technology blogger had to say:
As I finalise this column, I read about the possibility of the UK Government outsourcing NHS patient records to an external provider. While some may find this alarming, I think it could be an excellent idea. We should remember how much confidential information our public servants have lost by disposing of unshredded paper documents in open garbage bags, leaving laptops on the train or having them stolen from offices or cars. One laptop with Government information mysteriously appeared for sale on Ebay recently. When information is stored in the cloud, confidential information is encrypted and held securely so that even the provider’s staff cannot access it, allaying all the panic about sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. So in this case, a remote service could well be the best option!