With this age of third party cloud storage well underway, the days of controlling and protecting your own information are quickly coming to a close. To wit, when users traditionally stored information on a PC the onus of protection and the rights of ownership lay firmly with the user, but not so with cloud services. When uploading one’s data to a third party cloud server, one relinquishes a great deal of control over how that data is managed, protected, and even used.
In fact, the question of proprietary control has been front and centre in the last few years, particularly as more and more cloud services enter the market. These companies have their own rules, their own standards, and their own user agreements, and if you’re thinking of utilizing their services, it’s certainly best to read the fine print.
While several large cloud storage services do allow users to retain control over their information, following the release of Google Drive yesterday many have found the Terms of Service agreement to be particularly disconcerting, as with its new cloud service Google lays claim to everything you own.
Within hours of Google launching its Drive cloud service yesterday the search engine giant came under heavy fire for its draconian terms of service. In fact, while Apple faced similar criticism over the control of information loaded onto the cloud its terms of service are significantly friendlier than what Google has put forward.
Beyond that, when compared with the two cloud storage market leaders, Dropbox and Microsoft’s SkyDrive—both of which allow users full control and ownership of their content—Google’s terms of service seem just down right evil, particularly for a company that claims to supports market innovation and sports a corporate philosophy expounding exactly the opposite, “Don’t Be Evil.”
Here’s a comparison of the terms of service from the three cloud service providers:
Dropbox: “Your Stuff & Your Privacy” 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.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive: “Your Content” Except for material that we license to you, we don’t claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don’t control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service.
Google Drive: “Your Content in our Services” When you upload or otherwise submit content to 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 that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.
Google’s terms of service goes on to say, “The rights that you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing that you have added to Google Maps).”
It’s the portion that I’ve put in bold that particularly concerns me, as users divest all claims to ownership and control of any information put on Google Drive forever and always, even if they stop using the service.
For a company plagued by privacy missteps of late this move certainly surprises me, leading me to believe that Google will almost certainly change at least some of its terms of service, as in this age of growing privacy awareness there’s no way the public will stand for this…or at least they shouldn’t.