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Dropbox just showed us why you can’t rely on the cloud

July 2nd, 2011 by · 9 Comments · opinion

A few months ago I posted about the new free Pogoplug service, and how it let you create your own file server on a PC. I liked the idea of controlling my own data, or as Mike Cane put it in the comments:

The point is this: If the government wants access to *your* cloud files, they have to serve *you* with a search warrant, not Dropbox or Google or Amazon or Apple.

That might sound a bit paranoid, but given the things my government has been caught doing, I don’t think it is. And today we got another lesson in why you can’t really trust the cloud service providers.

There was an uproar today after people noticed that Dropbox changed theirĀ  user agreement. And the uproar continues, because Dropbox keep changing them! It started out this morning with Dropbox deciding that it can do what ever the bleep they want with your files:

you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent we think it necessary for the Service.

Apparently it’s changed at least 4 times since then. (I learned of this late, so I don’t know the exact count.) This isn’t quite as bad as the time Scribd got caught pirating users’ uploaded content, but it’s still not good.

I’m not going to rant and rave about this, but I will ask a question. Given how often they’ve changed the TOU, how can you predict what Dropbox will do tomorrow?

Do you really want to run the legal risk of your uploaded content being distributed by Dropbox?

via Library Abominations

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9 Comments so far ↓

  • Steve Gold

    Lots of Internet users think they can do anything they want online. They have no idea that libel laws apply to what they post. Nasty surprise if the cloud service reposted your nasty, little libelous comment.

    You shouldn’t have to opt out to get privacy protections. You should have to opt in to forgo them. Better yet would be a FTC web site like the “Do Not Call List” for telephones.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      What libelous comment?

      I assume you mean Scribd. You know, I would love to be sued by Scribd. I know that in at least one case the content that Scribd had been selling was actually released under a non-commercial CC license. By selling access Scribd violated the license and arguably pirated the content.

  • elmar

    Just another reason for not believing all the hype behind “the cloud” advertising. I want my files in my hands-not at the whim of others. People in other countries using cloud services based in the United States are subject to having their files available to authorities in the States with no recourse.

  • Richard Adin

    Why all the fuss about Dropbox’s changing the TOS? It is no less benign than what Facebook has been doing for months if not years. And every time there is an uproar about Facebook’s lack of privacy, another million people sign up.

    The bottom line is that if you use a computer or computer-like device, you are giving away your privacy rights. The extent may vary and few are as egregious as Facebook, but very few people seem to care.

    Once again, Nate, I think you are making a mountain out of a molehill in light of Facebook and the continued particpation there of hundreds of millions of people who are happy to let the world see their dirty laundry.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I think the difference is that we got to watch them change it in real time, and that drove home how little control the user has.

      • Mike Cane

        >>>The bottom line is that if you use a computer or computer-like device, you are giving away your privacy rights.

        Where the hell did you come up with this line of ridiculous crap, Adin?

    • Chris

      On-line data storage is a bit different than telling people what you ate for lunch.

  • Ron

    If my memory serves me well these same terms are also used by Google. And Apple has a habit of changing their terms every few weeks but who really reads them? And who really cares? If you want to be really safe you’d better disconnect from the web but then it’s no longer fun to have a computer, right?

  • And the Dropbox debacle continues | The Digital Reader

    [...] as we saw it, Dropbox gave themselves the right to do what.ever they want with our content. I was bothered more by the repeated changes to the license than what it said, but that’s not the important [...]

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