While outlining its strategy for cloud computing, European Union vice president for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes emphasised that an increased focus on security and data protection in the cloud lies in the heart of its strategy.

Kroes called for data protection standards to be “trans-national because, the free movement of personal data within the EU is another way to complete the digital single market in Europe”.

Industry experts have responded that they are already driving self-regulatory initiatives such as developing code of practice documents. But what is really required is a concrete plan of action to address important issues relating to delivery of information services via the cloud. It is time that guidelines and advisory services for cloud computing are followed by practical initiatives.

While not all data loss issues in the recent times are directly related to cloud, data protection and security issues have always wrecked robust adoption of these technologies by consumers.

Companies need to address a few issues to reassure customers. They need to clearly define what constitutes as their own responsibility towards data protection and security on the cloud, and what constitutes as customer’s responsibility. Not many customers are aware of where vendor’s responsibilities towards data management ends, and where theirs begin.

Secondly service providers need to confidently convince businesses that they can manage unstructured and ever-expanding information created on the social web and safely and securely streamline this information for businesses to action on it.

And lastly, as these providers set their eyes in emerging markets such as China, where information is increasingly accessed via mobile devices rather than traditional computing machines, they need to have clear strategy for information delivery on mobile.

Otherwise, as social web and mobile computing become the norm in 2011, there will be wide-spread confusion about who is responsible for data breaches and compliance issues, how to manage and control access to users on mobile devices and how to manage information flow on the social media.

2011 will be a crucial year as we gradually emerge out of the current economic chaos and see new technologies catch up rapidly. The industry must come to grips with these pressing issues and bring transparency, accountability and safety to data on cloud. And yes, the onus is on business customers and info pros too to read the fine-print of cloud services. We are all in it together, aren’t we?