How do we use the “cloud” securely?
First, what it is, and what it isn’t.
Some people believe “the cloud” means computers connected to satellite servers or machines located somewhere “in the sky.” Don’t read too much into the name!
The cloud is a protocol for information sharing among a large number of servers (very much on the ground and in buildings—not on a satellite). These servers not only store information, they can make fragments out of any file you want and store the various fragments on different servers. This makes retrieving the full file much faster and more efficient.
So a cloud is a network of servers that work together to store your information in a collaborative way.
People use the cloud because it allows storage of more information than an average computer can store by itself. It also allows easy access to your data by any number of people working together, and it protects the data from individual computer or local server failure. The cloud is widely popular, which is why so many companies offer the service.
That’s also where the problems lie.
Google, Dropbox and other corporate providers are centralized services offered by companies whose primary concern is profit. These companies are vulnerable to legal requests for turning over data and can terminate your account at any time. Your information isn’t secure because you do not control it. Additionally, all Android and iPhones, by default, copy all of your contacts and calendar items to Google and Apple servers.
For an activist, this is very dangerous. That’s why we recommend Nextcloud.
Nextcloud is a file, calendar and contacts sharing service. Like Dropbox, it allows you to share and synchronize a folder on your computer or your phone with anyone you want. Like Google Docs, it allows you to edit your documents via the web. Nextcloud also provides an alternative to backing up your phone contacts and calendar items on Google or Apple servers.
Nextcloud is free software designed to be federated (many different Nextcloud sites can share with each other), and can be run by people you know and trust.
To start using Nextcloud, you can either find a provider that offers it, or you can install it on your own computer. The best place to start is the Nextcloud site itself which has a list of providers who offer Nextcloud services and has downloads for every computer operating system, including full installation instructions.
Some movement providers offer Nextcloud as a default benefit. For instance, if you are a May First/People Link member, Nextcloud service is included. Simply go to share.mayfirst.org and get started. (Additional documentation is available on the May First/People Link support page.)