If you have something to hide from the government, don't use Dropbox

Summary:Dropbox may, if necessary, decrypt the files in private Dropbox folders, allowing them to be read by government investigators. Here's what you need to know.

Image courtesy Flickr user imamon.

UPDATE 4/21: DropBox has an official comment.

Or Gmail. Or Google Apps. Or Amazon's cloud. Or Hotmail. Or any of Yahoo's many services. Or almost any other online service.

Here's what's happening and why I bring this up. Dropbox yesterday changed its terms of service, as reported by Business Insider.

With the new terms of service, Dropbox now says that it will "United States law enforcement when it receives valid legal process" and may, if necessary, decrypt the files in private Dropbox folders, allowing them to be read by government investigators.

Nothing to see here. Move along.

There is nothing really new here, which is why I mentioned so many other providers at the top of the page. American law allows law enforcement certain rights of search.

In most cases, that's after a judge has issued a search warrant -- and whether the nasty stuff you're hiding is in your Dropbox or your bank's safety deposit box, the gov has the right to peek inside.

Of course, some of the due process and judicial review has been modified in light of the Patriot Act, but the ability for government examination is important in any complex society and this new terms of service change by Dropbox isn't anything particularly new.

Of course, this all assumes we can trust the government to not abuse the privilege, but that's why there's so much judicial review built into the system.

In the meantime, don't go doing anything that'll get you in so much trouble that the G-Men need to decrypt your email or cloud storage.

What are you hiding? Fess-up below in the TalkBacks.

Topics: Government : US, Government


In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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