Freelancers, have your say on data, storage, and those pesky platform outages

A government consultation on security and resilience of data storage and processing infrastructure might not turn the head of everyone in the creative industries but freelancers, almost regardless of sector or specialism, you too are exposed to information at or within your work, writes Evane Alexandre and Gabrielle O’Sullivan, legal consultants for digital law firm Gerrish Legal.

Much thought beyond subscribing? Maybe not, until now

The storage and security of the data you handle may not be something that you have given much thought to, besides, perhaps, just quickly subscribing to one of the few well-known cloud or security software providers!

However, taking into consideration the growing reliance in the UK on large-scale data storage and processing services for the delivery of essential public services such as banking and energy, the UK government is looking for new ways to boost the resilience and security of data infrastructure. And if you’re a creative type, they will invariably want to hear from you -- as it’s good, innovative ideas that the cultural department is ultimately seeking.

The importance can hardly be overstated. In fact, in its “call for views” on data storage and processing infrastructure security and resilience on May 26th, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said its reaching out was designed to take forward the UK’s National Data Strategy. 

The government’s objectives with this DCMS consultation…

To contribute, you’ll need to know the aims. The government says the goal is to both ensure that our country’s tech infrastructure remains able to cope with continued growth -- and to prevent cyber threats and other disruptions, thus protecting the wider economy.

As part of this, the views of data centre operators; their customers, cloud platforms, equipment suppliers, and cyber security experts, all to be sent to the consultation team here, will allow the government to comprehend and assess the risks that data storage and processing services could face. 

But maybe this DCMS consultation is for the clients of the self-employed too. After all, the government is also interested in the views of organisations that are involved with third-party data storage and processing infrastructure, including those that use cloud-based platforms. Even if you’re a freelancer running your own small sole trader or limited company business, that ‘organisation’ could be you of course.

How might the data storage/processing consultation affect freelancers?

The entities that will be impacted by these potential measures are essentially any organisation or sole trader using or providing data storage and processing infrastructure. The former is very important, as freelancers are more likely to use cloud or data storage services from big players such as Google or Microsoft, without having the economic power to negotiate or control these big players’ security practices.

The provisions that may be introduced by the government as a result of the consultation plan to protect the economy through protecting small and medium-sized businesses alongside ensuring the online safety of consumers. Executed and implemented correctly, this will have a direct (positive) impact on freelancers and their clients. Yet, be aware, as a ‘data controller,’ your business could end up facing further data protection or security measures to be implemented as a result of what the government goes on to decide for this space.

Where does the consultation speak loudest to self-employed businesses?

The consultation will explore the risks to data storage and processing infrastructure (in the UK), the security and resilience measures in data centres, and will ask organisations that provide data storage and processing infrastructure for a breakdown of their customer make-up. 

Due to the increasing use of data storage and processing services within a variety of industries (including the creative industries), the government’s aim of ensuring infrastructure maintains the ability to cope with the continued development and to prevent cyber threats is admirable. But it’s not just cybercrime that comes to mind here -- a platform outage affecting your freelance business could be equally as upending to your enterprise than a malicious piece of software troubling your storage application of choice. So that secondary aspect of the government’s objectives – ‘protecting the wider economy’ – shouldn’t be forgotten, because the (not necessarily malicious) threats to that could take many forms.

Finer details (and final thoughts)

The consultation is open for answers until 23:59pm on 24th July 2022. The government will then take into consideration the answers given, establishing if additional support or management to reduce the potential issues brought to data storage and processing infrastructure are required.

Despite not knowing which measures may come from this consultation, the DCMS has noted that they would “build on existing safeguards for data infrastructure.” Freelancers and organisations alike will have to wait for the results of the ‘call for views’ to understand the methods that may be put in place and which of them, potentially, might signify change for them as a consumer or commercial entity, or both.

 

24th June 2022

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