Lesson from a Cloud at 37,500 Feet

People don’t care about their data.

Photo taken from an airplane window somewhere between Georgia and Ohio. July 2016.

The Backstory

Found your data. I saw it in a cloud from an airplane window 37,500 feet above the east coast. How? No one cares.

It may be an overly strong statement to say no one cares about data, but go ahead and ask the average person how much they think about the information that is stored about them on big company and government servers; if they take the time to review every privacy and permission setting on each of their social accounts; or review the notification settings on every installed mobile application.

Or, for IT leaders… Are you acknowledged for the effort needed to make it possible for stakeholders to access data from their fingertips… do they care?

These are the types of thoughts I ended up having on the last leg of my flight. Most of the time, I didn’t think anything of the clouds, the winds, or the amazing fact that being able to fly across the country in one day is possible. That is… until I was somewhere between Georgia and Ohio when I saw a cloud, LITERALLY, that spawned several questions about “data caring.”

The Object

Clouds casting shadows. Like a rogue database.

When flying at 37,500 feet, you’re in what feels like a whole new world… being one with bluest skies and whitest clouds. I could see for miles, with everything below seemingly insignificant.

Few people on the ground knew we were above them or what we were doing. Who knew flying like this would be possible just 125 years ago? Today, it’s nothing to see or hear an airplane in the sky; the awe-factor has worn off.

People know there’s stuff like flying metal tubes with people in them zipping about above their heads, but it’s out of sight / out of mind. They don’t see it. What if the plane I was in was the server that held ALL of their family photos? Would they watch it to make sure it landed safely?

Would they care then?

Perhaps its inconsequential… there are so many “people” flying above your head that you have employed radial trust. You gave up ownership in the system and trust that the majority of the people will do the right thing and adhere to a positive moral code, so… you don’t care.

Perceptions of the “Cloud”

It is interesting to think about the way the “cloud” has become this amorphous thing where data is stored. The use of a common word like “cloud” has sparked motivation, fear, and misunderstanding. Whether we like it or not, in order to survive in today’s world, we all take its existence and service capability for granted.

Almost everything we do with our computing devices is stored on multiple server hard drives in multiple areas of the world by many different companies and governments — and — there’s nothing you can do about it. So, why care?

The Lesson

There are so many perceptions on what cloud storage is, yet many people just accept it without understanding the precautions they need and can take to maintain their own data… and protect it.

Fortunately, there are enough people in the world who do care that their “data caring” has encouraged large companies like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn to offer enhanced privacy and communication protocols that can be managed by you. Unfortunately, not as many people modify the default settings as one would hope.


We’ve all heard the stories about how our real lives can be ruined by our digital ones. Jon Ronson shared stories on this topic from the TED stage and via NPR’s TED Radio Hour:

The Take-aways:

  • No one one else will care about your data, unless you do.
  • YOU SHOULD CARE about what data is out there about you.
  • YOU SHOULD CARE about the data you put out there about yourself.
  • Thank your technology staff for trying to keep your data safe.
  • We all must be careful and watch out for one another.

We fear everything, until someone takes us under their wing and shows us the way to survive without getting seriously hurt. Encourage and educate others how to use the “cloud” safely and, more importantly, what data it holds.

The “cloud world.” It does exist.

Written by Shaun Holloway.