Identity in the Information Society

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 89-108

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Privacy in the clouds

  • Ann CavoukianAffiliated withOffice of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Email author 


Informational self-determination refers to the right or ability of individuals to exercise personal control over the collection, use and disclosure of their personal data by others. The basis of modern privacy laws and practices around the world, informational privacy has become a challenging concept to protect and promote in a world of ubiquitous and unlimited data sharing and storage among organizations. The paper advocates a “user-centric” approach to managing personal data online. However, user-centricity can be problematic when the user—the data subject—is not directly involved in transactions involving the disclosure, collection, processing, and storage of their personal data. Identity data is increasingly being generated, used and stored entirely in the networked “Cloud”, where it is under control of third parties. The paper explores possible technology solutions to ensure that individuals will be able to exercise informational self-determination in an era of network grid computing, exponential data creation, ubiquitous surveillance and rampant online fraud. The paper describes typical “Web 2.0” use scenarios, suggests some technology building blocks to protect and promote informational privacy online, and concludes with a call to develop a privacy-respective information technology ecosystem for identity management. Specifically, the paper outlines four fundamental technological approaches to help assure widespread and enduring online participation, confidence and trust in the information society.


Cloud computing Identity management Informational self-determination Online trust PETs Privacy Privacy-enhancing technologies User-centric identity Web 2.0