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Dropbox, data ownership, who cares?

Dropbox, the famous storage solution in the cloud, has announced this week-end a change in their Terms Of Use. I hope I understood correctly: by signing up on dropbox.com, Dropbox gets the right to use content uploaded by users. Dropbox doesn’t own your files, they just can “use” it. It doesn’t mean that Dropbox will start to sell your photos, videos and confidential documents you have sent on their server, it just means they can “use” them. Facebook, Picasa Web Albums by Google, Flickr by Yahoo… they all have the same kind of conditions in their Terms Of Use.

I work in the “hosting content” business and maybe what’s obvious for me is not that obvious for the average user: nothing is free. If you don’t pay for your 2GB of storage, you have to wonder how the provider pays his own bills! So when a provider doesn’t ask you for money, he asks for something else. The right to use your data the way they want, for example. Displaying targetted advertisements is another example.

So who cares? I thought that “nearly nobody” was the right answer, until I saw a huge number of messages on Twitter saying “today I close my Dropbox account, I disagree with their new TOS”. Actually, it seems that “a few people” care. See also blog posts Put it in the Cloud? Are You Nuts?Oh Dropbox, We Loved You Once…I’ve deleted my Dropbox account or the  less “panic” style Dropbox, cloud storage, and who owns your files?

For example, if you want to share your photos, publicly or privately, what’s the solution if you want to keep your full right of use on your own photos?

  1. host it by yourself. You can use a software like Piwigo: download it from Piwigo.org (Zenphoto or Menalto Gallery are also fine)
  2. if you don’t want to host it by yourself, you can open an account on Piwigo.com: this is not free, that’s €39/year, but we don’t use your data.

In the end I think that “no so many people” care, but we hear them on Twitter, and it’s good to know that some solutions exist for them.

Written by plg

July 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Well, technically speaking the file is encrypted and they cannot really use it. But they use it to avoid file duplication. For example, if user A and user B upload the same file, Dropbox is able to detect that these are a copy of the same file and just store one copy and give access to both user. I think this what means “use your content”. I read a discussion about that, and as a matter of fact, it gives them a huge competitive advantage, because cloud storage is not really free and the detection enable them to save a lot of space.

    Side note: I wonder what kind of big files uploaded to dropbox can be copy of another dropbox user file 😉


    July 5, 2011 at 5:52 am

    • You may be right Sylvain. The idea of my blog post is not really to say “Dropbox is evil” (I don’t think they are), the idea is to say that “some people care about the use of the data they upload in the cloud”.

      Now concerning the way they manage data uploaded by users to avoid duplication when files are binary identical, well ok, it’s smart. I would not have had this idea myself because I would have thought that you only store “personal” data (personal photos/videos, personal documents) and in that case, there is no way to have duplicate data between users. So it seems that people use Dropbox to store “not so personal data” like music or movies downloaded from the web. Maybe they didn’t think users would use Dropbox that way and they realized that 30 or 50% of data was already stored by them, so they decided to privately share it between users.


      July 5, 2011 at 8:17 am

  2. «If you don’t pay for the product, then YOU are the product»


    July 6, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    • Nicely said, I didn’t know this English idiom!


      July 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm

  3. […] year ago, dropbox changed its terms of use. Now Instagram makes it explicit that they can use your photos “the way they want” (to […]

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