A new in-depth study of the impact of cloud computing on everyday life reveals that, although most consumers regularly use cloud services, there is a lack of trust of service providers amongst 69 per cent of UK adults.

It also shows that security, privacy and transparency regarding where information is and what’s done with it are the top three concerns people have with cloud services.

According to the ‘Generation Cloud’ report, a key challenge for industry, as consumer awareness of the nature of ‘the cloud’ grows, is building trust through awareness raising, education and community engagement.

For the report, experts at the centre for Creative and Social Technology (CAST) at Goldsmiths, University of London, analysed the ‘connected’ lives of 15 people over two weeks. This was supported by quantitative research among 2,000 UK adults of 18 years-old or more.

According to the study, it’s no wonder people worry about the privacy and security of their online lives and assets:

  • The majority of UK adults (53 per cent) say they have precious possessions – including wedding videos, photos, emails, passwords and valuable documents, such as wills – stored online
  • Almost a quarter (24 per cent) estimate that they have digital treasures worth £200 or more per person, or £2.3bn in total across the nation, stashed in cloud services

Yet, many consumers take a contrary position: although almost half of people surveyed (49 per cent) are uncomfortable with storing valuable or confidential information online, they do it anyway.

Dr Chris Brauer, co-director of CAST, says: “There are clear and present blank spots regarding the extent of the use of digital information in all forms by businesses, and a sense of confusion as to what consumers should care, or worry, about. However, people are becoming more informed and know that they should have some concern. Addressing the concerns should be a priority for industry.”

The cloud is becoming more and more part of our everyday work and personal life. With the large investment so many UK adults seem to be making in digital treasures, it’s imperative that people consider the associated security and legacy implications. Businesses have a great opportunity now to shape consumer understanding of cloud computing and build trust. It’s important to remember that although cloud is for everyone, it’s not for everything.

The report also uncovers the scale of our lives lived in the cloud, and four social profiles of cloud users: Cloud Sceptic, e-Hoarder, Digital Native and Head in the Clouds. It also shows the date when 38 per cent of Brits think the CD will become a collector’s item (i.e. 2020).

Four distinct social profiles

The most common new social identity identified in the report, Head in the Clouds, represents the two-thirds (66 per cent) of those surveyed who are cloud users but are unaware that they are using cloud services. The e-Hoarder, representing 8 per cent of those surveyed, uses huge amounts of cloud storage space, is afraid of deleting things, and is as digitally disorganised as they are in their homes.

The Cloud Sceptic, representing 1 in 5 (20 per cent) of UK adults, is reliant on cloud services but reveals this with a tinge of mistrust or regret. 2020 Teenagers or Digital Natives, 9 year-olds from Peckham Park Primary in London who weren’t involved in the survey but were part of CAST’s study, do not draw a distinction between hardware, software or data, all of it is disposable – the cloud is simply life as they know it.