Look around, we have clouds all around us, yes we may see them in a form of condensed water vapor high above the ground but we have clouds in our pockets and on our desks at work, if that is in a office or coffee shop or farmhouse out in the country. What do we put there? All the data of our daily lives, from interests, status updates, locations, sports scores, etc… Not counting our personal privacy we also are in charge of professional data privacy if we work for a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation or our house cleaning business we run with our personal laptop. These are all forms of intellectual property. In the computer cloud the law has not caught up on to what all the rights are on other peoples’ servers whether hosted by Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, or other corporations.
When dealing with public safety in the meteorological sense, in the United States most raw data is public property produced by the National Weather Service, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the US Department of Commerce, note that Commerce, it is not just public safety but also helping the movement of goods and services, other countries have more restricted rules, but worldwide most data capture is done by government agencies. Due to the overhead private meteorological companies do not want to take over the costs, they may supplement the NWS network with some of their own data but still use the public data, their supplemental data though can be at risk if they host on public cloud servers.
The same goes with the GIS/Geomatics side of the equation, weather data can be one layer, orthophotos can be another, LiDAR data can be another. There are many public datasets out there but there are many sensitive datasets and data security is of utmost importance, it depends on who paid the bill to acquire the data, if it was a level of government, it will most likely be made public at a future date, other data sets like private electrical grids or pipeline networks are often paid for by private corporations, and kept safe not only for their bottom line and competitors but also for energy security as the public are the final consumers of their product, their ultimate stakeholders.
The same also holds true on internal cost savings of companies or governments, you can pay 30 cents on the dollar to send the Information Technology infrastructure to another country, but that can put data to risk, it is a penny wise-pound foolish business decision that many companies make. It is even harder in today’s economy with very tight budgets leading to much of IT being sent out and the domestic worker finds it harder and harder to make ends meet. This applies to more than the United States as the fiscal world is truly global. Capital can move freely, data can move freely, workers cannot.
Many Geomatics/GIS projects are also produced by federal money, the tight budget will only get tighter, the US Federal High Program is slated to run out of money in August 2014, unless the US Congress acts, and they have been tied up for no good reason on petty politics over the last 6+ years. Infrastructure spending is a public safety issue with quality roads, railroads, etc… Meteorology helps with the damage control, but GIS/Geomatics works with the safe roads and other seen and unseen projects that we pass in our daily life. Infrastructure spending is one part of data control, as it funds the ability to keep the data close to home and increase the public safety levels.