safe computing – data storage I

Only the most harded soul or boring individual has no pictures or stories to share.  It is easier than never before to share photos of cats, children, girlfriends or selfies. Simply take the photo and either email it or send it via MMS to your friends and family.

Although not ideal, it is still reasonably efficient to send photos with a distribution list when the photo is small.  This is increasingly not the case as as quite a few common cell phones have camera’s with well over ten megapixels.

Manufacturer Megapixel Model
Apple 8 iPhone S6
LG 13 LG G3
Samsung 16 Galaxy S5
Sony 20 Xperia Z3

Sending emails is easy but some older or company email systems have limits as low as five megabytes for attachments.  Even if these limitations didn’t exist why send emails with hundreds of megabytes to fifty people when only four or five are really interested.  Why not simply have some sort of network drive where this information can be stored.

The cloud

There may be some disputes who exactly coined the term “the cloud” to refer to services hosted over the internet.  These services might be a virtual computer or it might be a bunch of relatively dumb disks.

In any case, it has grown from a simple idea to a 38 billion dollar market which apparently will be exploding into the triple digits in the near future.

For a lot of consumers the cloud is simply some network storage that they can access from anywhere, but the available services make it possible to not only use it yourself but grant privileges to your friends. It is actually the perfect technology for sharing information with people who are geographically separate.

I can put some cat photos, baby videos or spreadsheets on such a virtual drive for my friends family and co-workers to access.  What could possibly go wrong?

Excluding the necessary setup to prevent your friends from accidentally moving your cat photos to their computer, there are other issues you should be concerned about.  I guess it all started with the lawyers ensuring 110% safety to the providers, perhaps it was due to fairly overzealous governments deciding they needed a peek or just maybe it was those clever guys in the marketing group.

All of this is summed up in the end user license agreement that comes with the service or software.

I didn’t actually need to read any of these to know that somebody was going to want more than I wanted to give.  When I started to read through these, I was rather disapointed to see I was correct.

Disclaimer

This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent opinions and observations of the author not those of his employer or any other firm. I am not a lawyer so it is possible there is a misunderstanding when reading legal texts.

The entire disclaimer for this site can be found here.

Dropbox

For reasons I don’t understand, I just love the name.  They provide a nice service which makes it really easy to share your personal pictures and such with friends.

One of my friends makes a point of reminding me that if the government wants your data that it really doesn’t matter what you have done, they will get it.  Not only that but you will most likely be helping them do so.  It is really simple, either they will take away your freedom or the costs of defending yourself will become too great causing you to eventually surrender.

With whom

Law & Order. We may disclose your information to third parties if we determine that such disclosure is reasonably necessary to (a) comply with the law; (b) protect any person from death or serious bodily injury; (c) prevent fraud or abuse of Dropbox or our users; or (d) protect Dropbox’s property rights.

The who seems simple enough.  I am not quite sure how the nice people at Dropbox will prevent death or fraud unless they go through your data files very carefully.  I am not sure if this means scanning for illegal pornography or checking if you have any manifestos with dangerous sounding words.  This doesn’t say too much so it is hard to get too worked up about it.

How

Retention. We’ll retain information you store on our Services for as long as we need it to provide you the Services. If you delete your account, we’ll also delete this information. But please note: (1) there might be some latency in deleting this information from our servers and back-up storage; and (2) we may retain this information if necessary to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, or enforce our agreements.

This also sounds somewhat harmless on the surface as there are too many unknowns.  If there is a lawsuit against me does that mean my cat photos will be held until a subpoena allows them them to give everything over to the lawyers?  If one of the US states decides all internet companies need to store 10 years of information will my cat photos be backed up for 10 years after I asked that they be removed?

Despite my desire for privacy perhaps these are not unrealistic clauses.  We do live in a society of laws and we cannot pick which ones we want to follow and which ones not.

Changes

If we are involved in a reorganization, merger, acquisition or sale of our assets, your information may be transferred as part of that deal.

This last item actually is the most worrying.  My intellectual property is actually mine and I don’t want it to be handed over to the highest bidder.  Does the new owner get the deleted data as well or is that just in case the police come knocking on the door.

Apple iCloud

I am somewhat less familiar with the Apple solution.  Their solution appears to be less like a drive and more like the glue that is holding the apple infrastructure together.

  • Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendar
  • Notes
  • Reminders
  • Photos
  • Storage device
  • Backup service

If you already have a number of Apple devices and use their software then it does sound like a really nice service.  Of course those fine people in Cupertino also have quite a list of conditions that apply.

It looks like Apple is playing the part of the parent and is trying to decide what types of content is good for you. It appears that they have gone one step further by making the user agree that Apple is the final arbiter of what is good content.  I rather doubt that Apple goes too deeply into the affairs of their users but the fact that they want the right to pre-screen and remove my content without my direct approval worries me.

C. Removal of Content

However, Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time, without prior notice and in its sole discretion, if such Content is found to be in violation of this Agreement or is otherwise objectionable.

The removal of content clause actually pretty much sums up my main concerns but apply does seem to have granted themselves pretty expanded rights when dealing with law enforcement authorities. Perhaps this simplifies things for Apple when the law comes a knockin but it does sound a bit much to me.

E. Access to Your Account and Content

Apple reserves the right to take steps Apple believes are reasonably necessary or appropriate to enforce and/or verify compliance with any part of this Agreement. You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate, if legally required to do so or if Apple has a good faith belief that such access, use, disclosure, or preservation is reasonably necessary to: (a) comply with legal process or request; (b) enforce this Agreement, including investigation of any potential violation thereof; (c) detect, prevent or otherwise address security, fraud or technical issues; or (d) protect the rights, property or safety of Apple, its users, a third party, or the public as required or permitted by law.

(emphasis is mine)

Google Drive

Of course Google also has their own internet storage solution which is called Google Drive.

Just like most EULA’s, if you are not a lawyer this does seem extra wordy and complicated but the end user license agreement from Google is probably on par with with that from both Apple and Dropbox.

Oddly enough one of the things that worries me is that Google specifically promises to deal with infringers according to the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  It isn’t so much that they promise to follow the law that is troubling as much as some of the abuses that have been reported by companies using the DMCA to game the system.  This concern isn’t aimed at Google as much as other companies using it to their advantage.

Privacy and Copyright Protection

Google’s privacy policies explain how we treat your personal data and protect your privacy when you use our Services. By using our Services, you agree that Google can use such data in accordance with our privacy policies.

We respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement and terminate accounts of repeat infringers according to the process set out in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

We provide information to help copyright holders manage their intellectual property online. If you think somebody is violating your copyrights and want to notify us, you can find information about submitting notices and Google’s policy about responding to notices in our Help Center.

The big clause is of course the one that deals with your content.  The first line of the second paragraph sounds to give Google every possible right and more.  I suspect because of how harsh it sounds to the non-lawyers (including me) they added the first paragraph.

Your Content in our Services

Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

The apple EULA seems to support different jurisdictions depending on the users location in their section on governing law.

It may be the same for Google as well but the only thing that I did find made it sound like the only law that would be used is the laws of California.

About these Terms

The laws of California, U.S.A., excluding California’s conflict of laws rules, will apply to any disputes arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services. All claims arising out of or relating to these terms or the Services will be litigated exclusively in the federal or state courts of Santa Clara County, California, USA, and you and Google consent to personal jurisdiction in those courts.

End User License Agreements & Privacy policies

Dropbox
https://www.dropbox.com/privacy

Apple
http://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/icloud/en/terms.html

Google
https://www.google.com/policies/terms/
http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/terms/standard_terms.html

Other Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Millennium_Copyright_Act

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