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First international standard on cloud services and personal information protection

The International Standardization Organization has released a standard for privacy aimed at cloud computing service providers. The standard, “Code of practice for protection of personally identifiable information (PII) in public clouds acting as PII processors” (ISO 27018), includes “control objectives, controls and guidelines for implementing measures to protect personally identifiable information” in public cloud computing environments.

According to lawyer Maria-Martina Yalamova on the National Law Review:

ISO 27018 is tailored to cloud services specifically and is the first privacy-specific international standard for the cloud. ISO 27018 seeks to address such issues as keeping customer information confidential and secure and preventing personal information from being processed for secondary purposes (e.g., advertising or data analytics) without the customer’s approval. ISO 27018 also responds directly to European Union regulators’ calls for the introduction of an auditable compliance framework for cloud processors to increase trust in the online environment. (Emphasis added.)

The new standard is useful for organizations that provide cloud services as well as those seeking to use such services. Service providers can benefit from the certainty offered by an internationally recognized compliance framework, and customers who choose certified providers can better understand how their information is being managed.

Yalamova outlines some of the requirements that the standard imposes on cloud service providers:

  • Always process personal information in accordance with the customer’s instructions
  • Only process personal information for marketing or advertising purposes with the customer’s express consent. Such consent cannot be made a condition for receiving the service
  • Help cloud customers comply when individuals assert their access rights
  • Disclose information to law enforcement authorities only when legally bound to do so
  • Disclose the names of any sub-processors and the possible locations where personal information may be processed prior to entering into a cloud services contract
  • Help cloud customers comply with their notification obligations in the event of a data breach
  • Implement a policy for the return, transfer or disposal of personal data, for instance when the service comes to an end
  • Subject their services to independent information security reviews at scheduled intervals (or when significant processing changes occur)
  • Enter into confidentiality agreements with staff who have access to personal data and provide appropriate staff training

For more information on the new standard and a preview, visit

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Adam Gorley

Editor at First Reference
Adam Gorley, B.A. (Phil.), is a researcher, content provider and editor. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks and Internal Control blogs, HRinfodesk and other First Reference publications. His areas of focus include broad human resources issues, corporate social responsibility, corporate governance and government policies, information technology and labour market trends.Read more
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