Cloud Law: A Global Digital Infrastructure for E-Services and E-Governance

June 15-16, 2009

As cloud computing becomes more pervasive, it has the prospect of becoming a new global computing infrastructure. By making computing resources available anywhere, anytime, to anyone, at relatively low cost, cloud computing will further the digitalization and virtualization in all spheres of social, economic, cultural and civic life. New kinds of institutions and policies will need to be devised that span not just the physical and the digital, but the jurisdictions of nation states and international agreements, profoundly challenging time-honored notions of governance and sovereignty. Complex issues concerning privacy, security, and local jurisdiction are but the tips of the iceberg as new kinds of financial and technical services are designed to leverage—and exploit— the opportunities presented by globalized computing resources.

In order for cloud computing to achieve its promise, it will need to evolve new service layers— principally, identity, authentication and governance processes. As evolving forms of digital enterprises operate in the cloud, they will experiment with new legal mechanisms for contracting, governance, dispute resolution, and enforcement. Some of these mechanisms can be a developed within the context of traditional private law, but others will require new kinds of public and international law to sustain them. By encoding principles of transparency, accountability, recourse, and non-coercion into the design of digital institutions, there is the prospect of bringing the rule of law to countries and situations where it has been absent.

Participants engaged in one or all of the areas of technology, services, and policy pertaining to cloud computing, social media, e-governance, and new types of web services, sought to map the current landscape regarding cloud computing at the intersection of technology, markets, and the law. They postulated the possible contours of a norm-based infrastructure for cloud computing (“cloud law”) that both supports the evolution of the field and provides appropriate institutional arrangements and tools to enable workable governance structures to emerge within the cloud.