wasting bandwidth since 1999

Beware of the Clouds

This week Google opened it’s new, highly anticipated cloud storage service called Drive, a direct competitor with Dropbox, Microsoft’s SkyDrive and others.

With all recent the stories about Google’s privacy policies (or their lack privacy concerns?), more than a few observers have pointed out this little piece of their newly unified terms of service agreement that seems to apply to material you store in their cloud.

Screen Shot 2012 04 26 at 12 58 10 PM

I’m not sure I want to give Google the rights to “create derivative works” or “publicly perform” my stuff, even if I cancel my account. Do you?

I imagine the Google lawyers are mulling over all the criticisms and will probably make some changes to the TOS for Drive. In the meantime, I’ll stay with Dropbox which seems to have a better grasp of this whole private storage concept.

By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.*

Of course, all of this is null and void if the feds come knocking on their door demanding to peek in my little corner of the cloud.

As they could, without a warrant or my knowledge, under the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 (CISPA) now being considered in the US House. Go visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation to see why and how to voice your opposition to this latest attempt to violate your privacy in the name of “security” (to keep you Cyber-Snuggly).

And, as always, understand the terms of service before relying on any web service.

Let’s be careful out there.

*And the fact that they also call my intellectual property “stuff” is attractive. :-)


  1. Tim Owens

    I was initially concerned about the far reaching permissions Google was giving itself but The Verge has a good analysis of it here: http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/25/2973849/google-drive-terms-privacy-data-skydrive-dropbox-icloud

    For example, with ought the permission to create derivative works, Google can’t show thumbnails of your photos to you because that is a modification. In fact that article’s interpretation is that while Dropbox’s language is much more casual, the permissions it retains from the user are actually far more reaching. In any case I seem to remember reading something about Terms of Service only being enforceable within the constraints of common sense (ie. Google can’t hide a magic service charge in a TOS and expect it to be legal). I try to take it all with a grain of salt.

    • Tim

      Some of The Verge’s analysis of the language in Google TOS makes sense but the problem is that a lawyer could argue the opposite interpretation and also be correct. Ok, so maybe I’ve been reading too much on the EFF site, but I think it’s good to be a little cautious about these services that provide storage for your data.

      Another piece that’s causing me to be distrustful of Google is the fact that I’m not their customer. At the core, they, like Facebook and others, are an advertising company whose first concern is the advertiser. I’d rather pay for a service and have some leverage (however small).

      • Dave

        I strongly support EFF, and healthy skepticism is always warranted. To say that Google is an advertising company because that’s where a majority of their money comes from is like saying that churches exist to gather tithes or governments exist to tax or that your entire purpose in life is to do technology work for schools; it’s a view from the perspective that money is the only thing that matters. Google is an organization aiming to organize the world’s information, with a very strong subgoal of constructive benevolence toward humanity.

      • Tim Owens

        While I don’t share Dave’s same perspective that Google’s goals are wholly noble (they are a company traded publicly with an aim to make money, that doesn’t make them evil but it is reality), I would point out that Drive is actually a paid product (with a free introductory size) along the same model that Dropbox uses. If this was “Unlimited storage for free with Google Ads” I’d be more inclined to agree with the notion that I’d rather pay someone relying on my money rather than my personal information, but I don’t think with this product that’s the case. One could argue that Dropbox *only* makes money from their product and Google *supplements* the income of their products through ads though.

        I suppose I shouldn’t really be arguing either way since in reality I’m quite happy with Dropbox, although I only use the free tier, and have no plans to download or run Google Drive (but I do use Google Docs).

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