Hey Websense, Get Off Our Clouds

Follow. But. Follow only if ye be men of valour, for the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel that no man yet has fought with it and lived.

So I set up my private cloud.  Reports were positive.  I was feeling good.

Until I got to the office this morning.  Since my network permissions will always override my internet permissions when I am accessing my cloud from home, I decided to see how true remote access worked.  I gleefully pointed my browser to BuffaloNAS.com, Buffalo’s remote access portal.  As I was preparing for the sheer awesomeness that my private cloud was surely about to deal. . .


That happened.

“Peer-to-Peer File Sharing?”  Are you freakin’ kidding me?  I hadn’t thought about Websense since 2006, when it concluded that a bunch of web sites, including mine, should be censored for the good of society, or something like that.  Just when I thought it was all good and the world was one giant field full of butterflies, unicorns and A-Listers about to start linking wildly to my blog posts, I get another beatdown by the man.

I know, from talking to our IT folks, that my company only uses Websense to restrict access to porn sites (that’s certainly appropriate) and, as noted above, “Peer-to-Peer File Sharing” sites.  This would also be appropriate, if you’re talking about torrent sites and whatever has replaced Napster.  Lots of computer un-saavy folks use computers at work and there is an eager clicker for every trojan horse or phishing scam.  Unless they want to spend all day wiping and restoring computers, the IT folks have to protect people from themselves.  On the other hand, if Websense defines every site that allows the possibility of accessing a file as a peer-to-peer file sharing site, we’re talking about a pretty wide net.  Right click on almost any link, anywhere and, as big as Elvis, there’s an option to save (e.g., download) the target file.

Interestingly enough, while Buffalo’s NAS site was snared in this net, several online storage sites (no names because I don’t want to inadvertently nark) were not.

Other than a general skepticism about companies that get paid to decide what falls within or without the forbidden zone, I’m not proposing any specific reforms.  I’m certainly not proposing that everyone should have the right to access their private clouds from their offices.  Practically speaking, I would rarely if ever need to access my cloud from my office 8 miles away.  If I’m in town, I’m staying at home and can get whatever I need when I get there.

But nets too wide and an overly active distrust of technology are not conducive to the sort of technological advancements I am interested in using and writing about.  I also think a lot of people are kidding themselves if they think corporate America is about to toss all its content into the very same cloud it is currently so wary of.

And it’s kind of a bummer that the same company that decided my entire web site should be blocked has now rained all over my private cloud parade.