Gov 2.0 and negotiating 'the cloud'

AGS continued to develop its Gov 2.0 and social media expertise during 2011–12. Work ranged from drafting disclaimers for government Facebook pages and working on risk assessments for YouTube channels, through to delivering training on social media moderation strategies and advising an agency on cybersmearing and cyberstalking issues associated with use of a blogging site.

Our lawyers provided urgent advice regarding various legal issues associated with closed Facebook groups, open Facebook pages and iPhone 'apps' that interface with official Australian government computer systems. We also provided advice on the legal implications of the recent changes to Google's standard Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

AGS also continued to work in partnership with various departments on groundbreaking projects that make use of new media to improve government services. This included working with the Attorney-General's Department on the free Disasterwatch smartphone application now available through iTunes, and developing a better practice guide for the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) on the legal issues associated with the government's growing use of 'cloud computing'.

Cloud computing is best defined as the provision of computing as a service over a network (such as the internet) and is currently touted as the future way of providing most information technology products and services.

The Better Practice Guide, entitled Negotiating the cloud – legal issues in cloud computing agreements, was designed to help agencies to navigate typical legal issues in cloud computing agreements. Some of these issues would be familiar to those who deal regularly with information technology contracts. However, the nature of cloud computing can create new or different risks and agencies may need to consider these issues afresh in the cloud computing context.

Like cloud computing itself, cloud computing agreements appear in a wide variety of forms. These can range from simple standardised click-wrap agreements to multilayered sets of terms and conditions. There are, however, a core set of legal issues that agencies should consider in any cloud computing agreement, whether or not the agreement expressly deals with those issues.

CEO Ian Govey hosted a well-attended Government Law Group event on the legal issues associated with cloud computing in late 2011. He opened with a foray into early and interesting advices on telecommunications provided by Attorneys-General including one from Robert Garran (then Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department) on the possibility of provision by the Commonwealth of remotely monitored electric burglar alarm services – an early example of a cloud service!

AGS Senior Executive Lawyer, Adrian Snooks, spoke on the legal issues in cloud computing with particular reference to the Better Practice Guide on these issues. He was followed by Ross Dobson, Assistant Director, Governance and Policy Branch from AGIMO, who discussed the Government's cloud computing strategy in detail.

The Guide, developed by AGS lawyers including Adrian Snooks and Andrew Schatz, is currently available on the AGIMO website. A short podcast from Adrian discussing some of these issues is also available on the AGS website.

AGS Senior Executive Lawyer Jane Lye and AGS Senior General Counsel Tara McNeilly also spoke on various legal issues associated with cloud computing at the 'What's in the clouds?' forum held in Brisbane in November 2011. This forum was hosted jointly by AGS, Queensland Crown Law and the Queensland Law Society. Jane spoke about a recent investigation by the Privacy Commissioner which examined issues associated with the use of cloud solutions and Tara spoke about restrictions on transborder data flow and considering the operation and impact of local laws in the cloud computing context.

This is an extract from the 2011–12 AGS annual report