Two weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that Governor Cuomo wanted a $10 million initiative to create a statewide cloud database, specifically to help local police departments combat crime. Three days later, he wrote the initiative into the proposed budget. Here’s what it says (on the bottom of page 67):
New York State Protection Cloud. Accurate and timely information is at the core of today’s effective policing, and up-to-date technology tools are needed to deliver that information efficiently. Over the next three years, the State will invest $10 million in shared technology for State and local law enforcement. By making a single solution available to all law enforcement agencies, the State will increase local crime-fighting capabilities, eliminate barriers to effective Public Safety information sharing, and support coordinated responses across jurisdictions. As local law enforcement agencies join the system over the next four years, savings to these participating agencies are expected to grow to $12 million annually.
Data-sharing technology isn’t anything incredibly new in the technology world, so it would make sense for governments of all sizes to find ways to utilize cloud computing. But there are serious questions to consider after the last major government website, Healthcare.gov, cost tax payers perhaps 100 times the amount it should’ve. And on top of that, have Julian Assange and Edward Snowden not shown clearly how suddenly lots of sensitive government information can be shared with the world? Indeed, the activist group Anonymous police databases in at least five freaking states.
So, we know information stored online is not safe. Ever. What we don’t know yet, conclusively, is how much a cloud database would reduce crime. I would suspect three types of areas would benefit: remote upstate towns, underfunded police departments (metropolitan or otherwise), and college towns.
The Ithaca Police Department falls under that last category. Over 30 thousand students migrate seasonally in and out of the town, with perhaps 5 thousand new students coming every year. With that kind of turnover, any organization would desire a heads up of pertinent individuals.
So maybe it’s a good idea… but not yet. Cloud computing lacks security; until that changes, why put sensitive information anywhere but a paper file?