Firm attorney R. Christopher Dix offers insight into a recent Florida Bar opinion informing attorneys on the ethical use of cloud computing. On July 26, 2013, The Florida Bar approved advisory ethics opinion 12-3 regarding the growing practice of “cloud computing.” Cloud computing generally refers to the use of the Internet to access and perform computer services, including remote storage of electronic data. Some examples of cloud computing include Gmail, iTunes, Facebook and Dropbox.
The Florida Bar’s primary concern with cloud computing is the increasing reliance by attorneys and other legal professionals on third-party service providers to maintain the confidentiality of information stored “in the cloud.” Presumably, no ethically-responsible attorney would ever deliver a box of confidential client documents to a total stranger and then ask that total stranger to hold onto those documents, for free, for an undetermined amount of time, all the while expecting that total stranger to keep that box of documents confidential. And yet, many attorneys do essentially the same thing when they use cloud-based storage solutions like Dropbox, or Apple’s iCloud, to store confidential client information. Furthermore, even if an attorney sends an encrypted transmission of confidential information to a cloud-based storage solution, most of the data is not subsequently stored in the cloud in an encrypted format. Someone with physical access to a third-party provider’s servers (e.g., a Dropbox employee) could obtain access to an attorney’s confidential information without the attorney’s knowledge or consent.
In short, The Florida Bar’s advisory opinion informs Florida attorneys about the ethical use of cloud computing and requires Florida attorneys to actively seek to protect client confidentiality when communicating or storing data “in the cloud,” rather than just ignoring or disregarding the risks and threats to the security of their clients’ data and communications.Follow us on for more content updates