Cloud storage – Privacy concerns (Dec 2013) - Kumaradevan
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Cloud storage – Privacy concerns (Dec 2013)

Cloud storage – Privacy concerns (Dec 2013)

Written by San (SPSS, Excel & Stata – Data mining and Econometric Modeller)

Day by day, our need for storage is growing! We moved from fixed hard disks to movable flash drives. Now we are looking to cloud storage which also comes with security concerns. So I decided to do a bit of research on currently available solutions (Google vs Microsoft vs Dropbox vs iCloud vs Personal Cloud).


Google Drive

Google doesn’t have a specific privacy policy for Google Drive. They are trying to use a ‘unified terms of service and privacy policy’ for all their services.

The following is taken from Google’s terms of service:

” Some of our Services allow you to submit 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 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 we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones”.

To be fair, they can’t effectively provide their services without the above permissions. They are specifically listing the rights and permissions they need.


Microsoft’s SkyDrive

Microsoft provides services which are very similar to Google. However, they have the advantage of linking them with Microsoft Office products such as Word, Excel or Outlook.

The following is taken from Microsoft’s global terms of service:

”… we don’t claim ownership of the content you provide on the services. Your content remains your content, and you are responsible for it. We don’t control, verify, pay for, or endorse or otherwise assume any liability for the content that you and others make available on the services.
.. you agree that it may be used, modified, adapted, saved, reproduced, distributed, and displayed to the extent necessary to protect you and to provide, protect and improve Microsoft products and services.”

Again, they want our permission so that they can provide their linked services effectively.

Even though, Microsoft’s policies are similar to Google’s, Microsoft is taking a hard stand on copyright infringements.  They say that by stating that they reserve the right to delete content if you violate the terms.



Dropbox provides just one service, hence their policies are more tighter to the file storage service.

The following is taken from Dropbox’s terms of service:

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.

We may need your permission to do things you ask us to do with your stuff, for example, hosting your files, or sharing them at your direction. This includes product features visible to you, for example, image thumbnails or document previews. It also includes design choices we make to technically administer our Services, for example, how we redundantly backup data to keep it safe. You give us the permissions we need to do those things solely to provide the Services. This permission also extends to trusted third parties we work with to provide the Services, for example Amazon, which provides our storage space (again, only to provide the Services).”

They haven’t listed the rights and permissions they needed. They simply said “to provide the services”. Their services can change in the future.


Apple’s iCloud

I included iCloud for the sake of completeness. They don’t provide direct document storage in folders. However, we can store large amount of user data in Photo Stream and Documents.

Following is taken from Apple’s policies.

”Except for material we may license to you, Apple does not claim ownership of the materials and/or Content you submit or make available on the Service. However, by submitting or posting such Content on areas of the Service that are accessible by the public or other users with whom you consent to share such Content, you grant Apple a worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available, without any compensation or obligation to you.




You understand that in order to provide the Service and make your Content available thereon, Apple may transmit your Content across various public networks, in various media, and modify or change your Content to comply with technical requirements of connecting networks or devices or computers. You agree that the license herein permits Apple to take any such actions”.

Apple’s policies are also similar to others. However, they are more elaborate on how they are going to use your data. They also keep the right to delete any files which are deemed “objectionable’ by them.


Personal Cloud (Eg: WD’s My Cloud)

This is simply a hard disk connected to our router so all other devices (Eg:smart phones or PCs) connected to the same network can access this hard disk. All our data is totally in our control. However, we need to take care of data security and backups! That is kind of a reason why we are looking at the external cloud solution in the first place.


So.. What is the conclusion?

Practically, everyone’s policies are same. Ultimately we own the data, not them.

It comes down to…. How much do you trust each company?

Google is more likely to move into the advertising area. Dropbox is more likely to charge for their services as that is their only source of income.

There is an area of concern with how Google stores our data. Apparently, their staff can query and read our data where as it is not possible by Microsoft employees to do the same thing.

Their features are compared in this table.

Dropbox* Skydrive/ oneDrive* Google Drive iCloud
Free Space 2GB 7GB 15GB 5GB
Annual Price for 100GB 100 50 60 100
Most platfoms? Yes Yes Yes No
Editing on the web? No Yes Yes No

* – These are referral links allow me to gain a little more space if you sign up.

May be it is wise to choose the one based on what ecosystem you are already on. If you are a Google or Android person then use Google Drive. If you are a Hotmail or Office person then use SkyDrive/oneDrive. If you are trapped in Apple’s ecosystem then use iCloud. If you use a mix of all then may be Dropbox is the answer!

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