In his post about Amazon & Wikileaks, Krishnan’s position was that Amazon kicking out Wikileaks without a fair legal due process was in fact damaging for those of us who are proponents of the (public) cloud. Krishnan and I were debating this issue last night over Twitter. I disagreed with Krishnan, so I wanted to offer my (opposite) point of view here.
First, some facts we can -hopefully- all agree with:
- Amazon might very well have the right to kick customers from the services as they see fit. I didn’t go over Amazon’s TOS myself and I’m not a lawer, but let’s assume for now that they have the right to do that as that’s one of the things good lawyers will typically insist of.
- Wikileaks has done something that is very controversial and polarizing
- Wikileaks (or their founder, Julian Assange) are being publicly accused by the government of doing something wrong.
- Wikileaks / Assange have NOT been formally accused NOR convicted of any crime (aside from that Swedish matter, but that’s a different story)
Again, this conversation has nothing to do with Wikileaks’ actions – nor with their legality or morality. And it has nothing to do with Amazon’s legal right to kick them out. The point is: will this action have a long-term positive or negative effect on public clouds?
I ‘d argue that in the long-term, this sets a good precedent that will, in the long-run, have a positive impact on public clouds. Why?
- Amazon was pressured by the US government to kick Wikileaks out. That speculation was particularly fueled because Sen. Joe Lieberman was the one making this announcement. And well… let’s face it… typically the government is the last one to get on the technology bandwagon. So they only knew about this because…
- Amazon kicked out Wikileaks because of the “political mood in the country”. This is the theory that Krishnan was offering – or basing his post on. The theory goes that Amazon was afraid of being associated with someone so controversial that they decided to kick them out.
- Amazon got rid of Wikileaks for fears of network performance, volume or because the people who launched the DOS attacks might follow them to Amazon’s infrastructures.
Those are the main 3 theories for why Amazon took this action.
Now… could this be bad for cloud vendors in general? Would enterprise customers get SO afraid of putting their data and their online business continuity in the hands of a third party vendor because of the possibility the vendor might take an action similar to Amazon’s? I say no, and here’s why:
If you run a business that the government hates SO much. Then well… you’re better off keeping your data in-house. And out of the country for that matter. For the most part, 99% of the businesses out there are not afraid of pissing the government. Pay your taxes, follow the laws and regulations and you are on the safe side. That’s not to say there are no shenanigans out there. But the US is a pretty good democracy with checks and balances. If you’re in Venezuela, then yeah, you have reason to fear the government. So I don’t think ANY business out there would be thinking: “gee, the feds are out to get me!”. So that takes care of the first scenario.
The second scenario has to do with the political mood. Is your business THAT controversial? Let me make an analogy here. Let’s say you run a bookshop in a mall (or a coffee shop, or whatever). And your landlord rents the store next to you to a strip club. Now, don’t get ahead of ourselves: Strips clubs are legal. So, what do you do? Is that going to hurt your business? Sure. That’s going to hurt the entire strip mall. Now, there’s no “due process” that will save you from that hell. Well, it is the exact same thing with Amazon. I’d say they are just looking for the entire well being of the tenants in their virtual strip mall. If what you do as a business is “mainstream”, then you have nothing to worry about when going to a public cloud.
Lastly, if Amazon got rid of Wikileaks for fear of network performance or attacks… then again, Amazon’s OTHER customers are the ones who benefit by NOT having Wikileaks on the same infrastructure. Let’s go back to my mall example… if one store is gobbling up all the parking spaces – and that foot traffic is not spilling over to the other stores – then all the other tenants loose.
So if I’m a business that is not doing dark/borderline stuff, this whole episode should make me feel more confident in Amazon / public clouds – because they are looking out for me against these external threats I’ve got no control off. And well, if you are a business doing something… let’s just say “different” (whether illegal or not!) then you’ve got bigger things to worry about than who you are going to host your site with.
Lastly, Krishnan also brought another good point over Twitter, which I don’t think got reflected in his post: Where do you draw the line? What prevents you cloud provider from kicking off your dog-grooming site just because the owner happens to be a cat person? It’s a silly example, I know… but I choose that on purpose to illustrate what’d happen if vendors took such “arbitrary” decisions. What prevents them? The market! The market prevents it. Because it’s a free market. There are tons of choices. So companies would be foolish to go that route. But if they do, there would be other choice.
Now, the key here is the word “market”. If Amazon had a de-facto monopoly on cloud services, then my position on this whole issue would be very different… because they would be acting as censors. And that’s a whole different ballgame.
So this whole episode really means nothing for the trust companies can have on cloud computing vendors. Are there going to be some people upset about it that they will no longer want to do business with Amazon? Sure! Are there going to be people who would have not done business with Amazon as long as they were hosting Wikileaks? You bet! You can find examples of both in the comments section of the TechCrunch article that talked about Amazon pulling Wikileaks. But overall, this is not going to mean anything in the long run.
How do I know? Well, this has happened before. This is not the first time. Google does not accept ads about guns. Guns are legal. But they are controversial too. Same with newspapers… they may refuse to carry certain ads depending on their content. And hey… Wikileaks credit card processor also kicked them out. Are people loosing faith in plastic?
It’s going to be alright.
(The article is a guest post by Rodrigo Vaca, currently Senior Director of Marketing at Zoho, previously with Google, Microsoft and SAP. This post reflect his personal opinion, not necessarily that of is employer. )
- Wikileaks Booted From Amazon Servers (fastcompany.com)
- Is Amazon Afraid of WikiLeaks Legal Liability? (legallyeasy.rocketlawyer.com)
- Amazon.com: A Profile in Cowardice (criminaljustice.change.org)
- Amazon Bows To US Censorship Pressure: Refuses To Host Wikileaks (techdirt.com)
- Why we removed the WikiLeaks visualizations (tableausoftware.com)