Your data, your rights: how fair are online storage services?

Your data, your rights: how fair are online storage services?

Summary: Google caused a flap this week with seemingly unfair terms of service for its new Google Drive service. But are those terms really different from the competition? I've gathered equivalent terms from Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Dropbox, and more, so you can judge for yourself.

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Google Drive

These terms are dramatically different from those that were in place last summer. In particular, the language that allows the license to continue even if you stop using the service is unlike any other service. I'll look more closely at those changes in a separate post. This is the current language, as modified March 1, 2012.

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. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

Microsoft Online Services

This agreement covers most of Microsoft’s business-related offerings, including Exchange and SharePoint Online, Office 365, Office Web Applications, and the Windows Azure Platform, among others.

m. Your Customer Data. You may be able to submit customer data for use in connection with the online service. “Customer data” are all data, including all text, sound, or image files and software that are provided to us by, or on behalf of, you through your use of the online service. When you submit customer data for use with any online service that enables communication or collaboration with third parties, you acknowledge that those third parties may then be able to:

  • Use, copy, distribute, display, publish, and modify your customer data;
  • Publish your name in connection with the customer data; and
  • Facilitate others’ ability to do the same.

Some online services may offer functionality that restricts third parties’ ability to do so. It is your responsibility to make use of that functionality as appropriate for your intended use of your customer data.

You agree to secure rights in your customer data necessary for us to provide you the online service without violating the rights of any third party, or otherwise obligating Microsoft to you or any third party. Microsoft does not and will not accept any obligations set forth in any separate license or other agreement that may apply to your customer data or use of the online service.

n. Ownership of customer data. As between the parties, you retain all right, title and interest in and to customer data. We acquire no rights in customer data, other than the rights you grant to us for the applicable online service. This does not apply to software or services we license you.

Microsoft SkyDrive

These terms apply to all Windows Live services and are unchanged from last summer.

5. 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.

You control who may access your content. If you share content in public areas of the service or in shared areas available to others you’ve chosen, then you agree that anyone you’ve shared content with may use that content. When you give others access to your content on the service, you grant them free, nonexclusive permission to use, reproduce, distribute, display, transmit, and communicate to the public the content solely in connection with the service and other products and services made available by Microsoft. If you don’t want others to have those rights, don’t use the service to share your content.

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.

SugarSync

These terms are unchanged from last summer.

File Sync, Storage and Confidentiality

After setting up your account and downloading our Software, you can select the Files you want to sync and/or store. You can change the Files you want to sync or store whenever you want. In order to make the Service available to you, we need your permission to sync and store your Files. Accordingly, you hereby grant to SugarSync a license: (i) to use, copy, transmit, distribute, store and cache Files that you choose to sync and/or store; and (ii) to copy, transmit, publish, and distribute to others the Files as you designate, whether through the sharing or public linking features of the Service, in each case solely to provide the Service to you.

Your Files are not accessible by third parties unless you elect to make them available to others through the Service. We respect the privacy and confidentiality of your Files, so we agree never to disclose your Files to anyone unless you instruct us to do so or a court orders us to disclose them, as provided in our Privacy Policy.

Ubuntu One

This service, run by Canonical Group Ltd, allows users to “store files online, synchronise files across their computers, and share files with others. Additional services will be added in the future.”

Its terms of service do not include any language covering rights to those files. In fact, the only use of the word rights is in relation to third-party content that may be “in breach of any law, regulation or third party's rights.”

* The list above does not include services whose primary purpose is backup, such as Carbonite and CrashPlan, nor does it include public file-sharing services such as RapidShare and MegaUpload. I have also omitted forwarding services like YouSendIt.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Legal, Microsoft

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38 comments
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  • the people must choose google

    because of its reputation and enhanced privacy.
    Too many options are confusing and people should coalesce around the market leader for online services and advertising to avoid fragmentation.
    Google's competitors are just some lame "me too" and "Johny come late".
    The Linux Geek
    • Ads and Data Don't Go Together

      Trusting my data to an advertising company! Not a good idea. This is why I don't trust Facebook with my data. At least in that case the information is what I want to share.
      jatbains
      • Then don't trust te other advertising company!

        "When you submit customer data for use with any online service that enables communication or collaboration with third parties, you acknowledge that those third parties may then be able to:

        Use, copy, distribute, display, publish, and modify your customer data;
        Publish your name in connection with the customer data; and
        Facilitate others ability to do the same."
        And
        "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."

        Right there it spells out Microsoft's intent, which is to sell access to your data. Remember Microsoft is really pushing Bing, so they are willing to play fast and loose with your data to sell ads. There is no need to publish, and distribute, your data, to provide the storage of said data.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Third parties are those you specify, not MS

        @Jumpin Jack Flash
        Learn to read TOS before you post.

        At no time in those quoted above does MS cite anything about third-parties they engage.

        Of course, other clauses may state who MS may engage.

        Your feeble attempt to try and tarnish MS with the poor customer privacy support of Google FAILED. There are likely other areas where MS may be dubious, but you are obviously too lazy to go find them yourself.
        Patanjali
      • Patanjali

        Did I get you all worked up? So now you need to rush in, and defend your deity? Microsoft specifically states they retain the right to distribute your data"[b]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[/b] that seems pretty clear, just because Microsoft doesn't lead in advertizing, doesn't mean they're better than Google.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Nice editing.

        Did I get you all worked up? So now you need to rush in, and defend your deity? Microsoft specifically states they retain the right to distribute your data"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
        ***********************************

        Why'd you cut off the paragraph? You left out the part that reads "[b]solely to the extent necessary to provide the service[/b]
        Hallowed are the Ori
      • Hallowed are the Ori

        There is a term for those words. They're called weasel words, for a reason. Had those paragraphs been listed by any other company, the Microsoft fanboys would be jumping up and down screaming how Google/Apple/Drop box/etc. was selling off user data. But when it's Microsift, the tune suddenly changes. Why, because Microsoft would never put themselves first? No. Because Microsoft cares more about the users than money? Again, no. I keep hearing how Google/Apple/Yahoo/etc. are so evil, and bad, while Microsoft is so wonderful The sad truth is everyone of those companies will sell you down the river, for a buck. To claim that Microsoft is above that is to show how much of a fool you really are. When a known Microsoft apologist (and jatbains is a Microsoft apologist), starts singling out other companies, it's being done to make said company the focus and distract allantion from Microsoft's doings.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Stick to the topic rather than your perverted ideology

        @Jumpin Jack Flash
        No-one here is giving MS a blanket pass here, but in this case, they are provided a far less invasive co-opting of uploaded data than Google.

        But you insist on your stupid and irrelevant rant about MS being bad, and deliberately ignoring obvious restrictions they undertake to fulfil.

        Pathetic reality distortion on your part really.
        Patanjali
      • @Jack

        You do realize that MS allows you to share your content with others, right? In order to do that they must DISTRIBUTE your content to the other user you selected to have that capability. If you put up an Office 2003 file and this other authorized (by you) user elects to open it up in Office 365, it may require some translation for it to work. It will then be DISPLAYED by Microsoft to that user.

        You really can't be that f*n stupid, are you?
        ultimitloozer
      • ultimitloozer

        "You really can't be that f*n stupid, are you? "
        No, but it seem you can. Microsoft has been proven to abuse any license they issue.There is a long, and well documented history of Microsoft abusing their customers, and the end users. After seeing Microsoft's latest scams, they are showing the willingness to do the same things that got them into trouble in the past again. I is the corporate culture at Microsoft that is corrupt. Microsoft believes that racketeering, extortion, and other corrupt business practices are a good thing. Had the original judge not let the vile creatures at Microsoft get under his skin, the world would be a much better place today.

        Patanjali:
        "No-one here is giving MS a blanket pass here, but in this case, [b]they are provided a far less invasive co-opting of uploaded data than Google.[/b]"
        Two words: "Prove it". Oh wait you can't, because it's not true. You Microsoft fanboys rail against the competition, and always give Microsoft a [b]blanket pass[/b]

        During the Antenna-gate rants, there were several WP 7 phones that had signal issues if you held the phone in a seemingly normal way. The HTC Touch Pro 2 I was issued at work also had an Antenna-gate issue. So maybe Mr. Jobs was right?

        Location-gate, Apple was wrong for not encrypting the data, but Microsoft was doing something even worse. They were collecting location data tied to the specific phone, and keeping it on their Bing servers. before the Man-goo update, you could simply go to Bing Maps, enter the Phone's Wifi address (wireless MAC address), and track the phones location without the user knowing it.
        www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2394009,00.asp
        What struck me odd about that, is the creepy stalker effect. But Microsoft was given a pass on these things. Apple also got lambasted when an update bricked Jailbroken phones, even though Apple said they couldn't guaranty it would work on modified phones. Microsoft was given a pass when the pre "No-doo" update bricked untouched phones. Are you seeing a pattern here? Attack the company without a history of abuse, while ignoring the company that has a long and well documented history of abuse.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
    • I don't disagree but...

      it's more like the other way around! Google often comes late to the party but typically makes a point to exceed what the other players are already offering. The best example is Gmail. They also have a real record of buying up the companies that started their (most popular/successful) products, as in Android, Picasa, YouTube, Earth/Maps (Keyhole), Voice Calling (Grand Central/Gizmo)...the list goes on. If you want the reallllly long list, look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_acquisitions_by_Google If you were actually trying to be facetious with your comment, it escaped me because you forgot to turn your sarcasm on.

      I don't get it - you're a Linux Geek & too many options are confusing. Oh wait, I *do* get it - too many options is why more people don't use Linux! Just an observation, not a criticism...
      SES21
      • Spot on...

        ...with your comment on too many options. Too many choices can be a paralytic. Check out this TED talk on the subject.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VO6XEQIsCoM
        ultimitloozer
      • Market Consolidation

        I would agree too. Google will likely try to consolidate the cloud market in the next couple years. I could see them trying to buy smaller services like Box or Mozy.

        I don't understand the hostility in this privacy discussion. But I would say that users should NEVER put any files on a cloud server that they wouldn't want other people to see. I've actually reviewed some of the safer cloud storage services on my site....http://www.top10cloudstorage.com/online-backup/

        Check it out if you've got a minute!
        webstorage
    • Hey, you! Back under the bridge!

      nt
      mlashinsky@...
  • Topics

    Hi Ed,

    you covered several companies in your article, yet you listed only Microsoft Corp in your Topic list at the bottom. Is there a reason for this?
    ForeverSPb
    • The topic list is generated automatically

      That's done on the ZDNet back end. Although we bloggers can manually edit those, in practice we rarely do because those topics aren't really used elsewhere.
      Ed Bott
  • Nilay Patel of the Verge

    I think wrote an interesting article that keeps things in perspective.

    http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/25/2973849/google-drive-terms-privacy-data-skydrive-dropbox-icloud
    jonandkelly
    • Agreed

      It's a very good piece, although I think he misses one key point, which I have queued up for a discussion later.
      Ed Bott
    • Nice article...

      I think online storage providers are going to err on the side of "CYA" wherever possible. You raised many points that relate to what these companies may need to do to provide their service, but I think DMCA might be the biggest reason. When providers started being held responsible for the content being servied up from their servers, it was a major game changer.
      jasonp@...
  • I like how Apple requires your content not to be in poor taste

    "You agree that any Content submitted or posted by you shall be your sole responsibility, shall not infringe or violate the rights of any other party or violate any laws, ...[or be] in poor taste."

    You post some pictures of someone with a checked shirt and striped pants and you've just violated the TOS :-).
    Flydog57