The Consumer Federation of America has released a report listing best practices it would like to see followed by providers of cloud-based computing services.
That includes Gmail, Flickr and Facebook as well as a growing number of public agencies and private businesses that store data on remote servers and make them accessible through the Internet.
The report said cloud computing offers significant cost and convenience benefits but also possible problems with consumer protection and privacy.
For instance, consumers could lose their data if the cloud service provider has inadequate procedures or shuts down on short notice, or they may find it difficult to move their data from one cloud service to another, the CFA said. Government agencies, including law enforcement, and marketers also may be granted access to the data without the consumers' knowledge.
The report lists a number of best practices it recommends to companies and agencies using the technology, including informing consumers when their information is used by a third party when legally possible. The recommendations come from a two-day retreat the organization held in June with attendees from consumer and privacy organizations, academia, government and business from the United States and Europe.
The CFA also urges consumers to read terms of service carefully and look for cloud services that follow the CFA's recommended practices.