Google Drive Terms of Service: Everything You Seriously Need to Know

Google Drive was released and we already analyzed why you won’t use it. Maybe as a bit of additional free cloud storage, but you probably won’t move to it and leave your current cloud storage service. However, there is one thing you should keep an eye on, and which is usually taken for granted – the Terms of Service agreement with those cloud storage services.

When you upload your files to somebody’s servers, the question is obvious – are those files their as well? Are they allowed to browse, open or read them? What rights do they have over the files you’ve put on their servers? Among many other things, these privacy issues are also regulated in a document names Terms of Services which you’ve accepted when you started using Google Drive, Dropbox or any other cloud hosting service.

It’s well known that Google gets the data about your from your own data (emails, RSS subscriptions, social activity…) and serves you very targeted ads. Will it do the same with your files? According to the TOS, it might, or at least, it gave itself the rights to do that:

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.

This is a paragraph taken out of Google’s unified TOS and privacy policy, and just for comparison, here is the one from Dropbox:

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).

As you can see, Google explicitly takes all the possible rights over your files, while Dropbox (politely) asks for a permission to use your data only in order to improve features visible to you.

It’s all for the Service

However, Google released a statement, as The Verge says, in which they’re trying to explain themselves, but everything is still – messy:

As our Terms of Service make clear, “what belongs to you stays yours.” You own your files and control their sharing, plain and simple. Our Terms of Service enable us to give you the services you want — so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can.

You own your files, of course, but there isn’t a line saying: We won’t look at your weekend photos! Should it be?

(click for a larger version)

Micorosoft SkyDrive is somewhat clearer with their TOS, but eventually, the all look for some basic privileges over your files – to move and change your files in order to provide the best service for its customers, whatever that means.

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.
You understand that Microsoft may need, and you hereby grant Microsoft the right, to use, modify, adapt, reproduce, distribute, and display content posted on the service solely to the extent necessary to provide the service.

So, what’s the verdict? Should you use cloud hosting? Sure, depending on how much you trust those services and what you’re planning to keep up there. If it’s a photo of you, why not, but if you have something more sensitive, maybe you should encrypt it first? Or even leave it on your local comupter? Cloud is great and practical, but is it worth it? What do you think?


Nikola Krajacic

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