Snowden: 'Wannabe PRISM partner' Dropbox is 'hostile to privacy'

Snowden: 'Wannabe PRISM partner' Dropbox is 'hostile to privacy'

Summary: The former government contractor who leaked tens of thousands of NSA documents warned users to be more privacy conscious when it comes to online cloud storage.

TOPICS: Security, Cloud
(Image: CNET/CBS Interactive)

Edward Snowden said cloud storage service Dropbox is "hostile to privacy," and called for more companies to offer services that prevent government snooping.

In an interview with The Guardian, the newspaper which the former government contractor went to publish classified materials detailing the U.S.' surveillance systems, Snowden said "zero knowledge" systems help protect user privacy by preventing government access.

"By depriving themselves of the ability to read the information, of the ability to sort of analyse and manipulate the information without the customers' consent or authorisation, that's the only way they can prove to the customers that they can be trusted with their information," he said.

He also criticized the company's decision to appoint former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to its board, calling her "the most anti-privacy official you can imagine."

Rice was appointed to the company's board earlier this year, sparking anger from privacy advocates and users. During her time in the Bush administration, she oversaw the STELLARWIND program, which was the cornerstone of Bush's domestic surveillance program, he said.

"What last year's revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe." — Edward Snowden

But the cloud storage firm, worth an estimated $10 billion as of January, defended the appointment, calling her experience with international markets and the dynamics that define them as crucial to the company's growth.

The whistleblower, who fled the U.S. to Russia where he remains on grounds of asylum, also called Dropbox a "wannabe PRISM partner." 

Dropbox was reportedly the next company to be targeted by the controversial surveillance program, which is slated to have been authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was amended in 2008 following the Bush administration's domestic spying scandal.

Snowden said companies like Spideroak offer greater protections to users because its employees do not have access to encrypted user data. While this does not prevent the government from asking for user data, the company cannot hand over any meaningful or decrypted content.

Only the subscribing user has the decryption key, forcing the government to submit data requests to the individual instead.

In a separate interview with the newspaper, Spideroak's founder and chief executive Ethan Oberman said as a result of the newfound awareness of privacy and security, the company has seen "sustained and continued growth."

"Privacy is a right, not a privilege," Oberman said.

Topics: Security, Cloud

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  • umm is that how he came by the nude pics the NSA employees were sharing

  • Snowden is now just using his 15 minutes to his own ends

    He doesn't like someone (maybe because they don't want to play ball with him) and they'll suddenly become "anti=privacy" or whatever he wants to label them.

    The scary part is, should his fame grow, and people start giving in to his desires, who know's what his next "money making" idea he'll have...
    • Maybe yes, Maybe no

      Out of curiosity (hate cats btw), did some research, such as you can, into who RS is.
      I was very surprised at who he is versus what has been reported. At what the government is saying vs. what they have actually done.
      Whether you like, dislike, agree, disagree, it makes for interesting and thought provoking reading.
    • How does a personal attack on snowden change anything he said?

      I think he makes a great point about Dropbox.

      I'm not sure he is making money on anything. The guy pretty much gave up everything he had to disclose what he did.

      I'm guessing that if you, I or 100 other posters here were given the same chance he was, 99 of us would not choose the same path.
    • That's not a bad way to do it

      People should be careful when letting sensitive data go out of their control (I and others were saying that long before we ever heard of Edward Snowden). He who controls the server controls the data thereon (unless it's encrypted). That should be a no-brainer, but apparently isn't.
      John L. Ries
    • I have no words to describe your irrational though processes

      He is "doleing" out the information slowly to keep the fact that the government of the United States of America is in violation of the 4th Amendment to our Constitution. Had he leaked everything all at once the conversation would probably be over by now.

      Please, Will, I beg you. If you don't get help at Charter, get help SOMEWHERE!!!
  • The ship has sailed

    Sorry Snowden, you're not an expert on anything nor have access to any special information, so you're just blowing smoke. The 15 minutes were over a long time ago.
    Buster Friendly
    • Um...

      > "nor have access to any special information,"

      I think the NSA and some of their apologist politicians may disagree with you there.
      • With what?

        With what? Snowden has some super secret special access to information? Explain where you think it comes from?
        Buster Friendly
        • Why?

          You have your opinion. Doesn't look like you are open to change.
        • He was a sysadmin on an NSA system last year

          That does give him some special knowledge, though it's no longer current (I doubt he's seen any new classified information since he left for Hong Kong).
          John L. Ries
    • Didn't we recently have a discussion on ad hominem attacks?

      That was it. The identity of the person making the statement has nothing whatever to do with its truthfulness (though credibility is variable). And in this case, I think there is good reason to believe he's right.
      John L. Ries
      • Don't stress too much over what William "Cowbell" Ferrel says

        He is also a vehement and rabid defender of Windows 8. LOL.

        The fact that our government is in direct violation of a constitutional amendment means very little to William. Because if he thinks it keeps him safer then it's a-otay by William.
  • Snowden isn't the only one... see privacy issues with Dropbox. These are real issues.

    Your demonizing of Snowden is pointless, but reveals much about you.
    • Demonizing

      Perhaps he is right, but where is his credibility? He stole a bunch of sensitive documents he was sworn to protect, ran off to a country with a terrible human rights and privacy track record, and now we are supposed to respect him as a global privacy expert because of this? No. Heroics and patriotism discussion aside, how does what he has done lend his opinions any credibility? Especially after he stated in the past that all leakers should be shot? I don't have any respect for people like Snowden, and feel like he is just looking for an escalator to the spotlight by providing journalists with something to sensationalize.
      • He swore to protect the constitution.

        "He stole a bunch of sensitive documents he was sworn to protect"

        Nope, he swore to protect the constitution, not a bunch of other random documents.

        "ran off to a country with a terrible human rights and privacy track record"

        Not that he had much choice, and I know some people who would say our record isn't exactly the greatest, either.

        "now we are supposed to respect him as a global privacy expert because of this?"

        Meh, I think this thing about Dropbox is a bunch of smoke like the others here. That being said, he did reveal a bunch of documents that really speak for themselves.
        • Did he?

          He wasn't a federal employee, but merely a contractor. He might have sworn to protect the government's secrets, but I'm under the impression that is as far as it goes. If he swore to protect the Constitution, it would have been in a prior capacity.
          John L. Ries
    • If that was directed at me, yes, it says alot about me

      It says I don't blindly believe someone on everything that comes out of their mouths, like many here do. It becomes too easy to tell them two truths and a lie, knowing they'll believe all three.

      Every time the news starts turning away from Snowden lately, he comes out with his "opinion", but nothing in the data he stole. Do they really pass around nude pics of people, or is this a lie to get people to "take notice of how personal it is to you, strangers looking at your naked wife!".

      Was that in the stolen data? Next it'll be him saying they pass around pictures of people's kids.

      So excuse me if I think this guy's getting off on the notoriety, popping up bigger then life at conventions and what not, center stage on the big screen, using that to express what he wants you to think. (How do we know Spideroak hasn't compensated him for his remarks in some way?). he embellished his own background in his interview on NBC not too long ago it was found.

      He basically was just another unremarkable, unnoticeable, average person before all of this.
      You don't think his opinion about himself has changed?

      He is center stage right now, 'hero to millions", and if he doesn't like some political person, then of course he can say pretty much anything he wants about them, connecting them to the NSA in some way, in the hopes he gets what he wants, everyone else be damned.

      There are too many questions on both sides to believe everything verbatim, right?
  • Forget about the personalities

    Just evaluate the facts. The fact is any cloud hosting company that doesn't encrypt stored content is open to the potential for that data to be exposed. It is also a known fact that any company incorporated in the USA must oblige their intelligence services for access to requested data. There is only one way to stop this - encrypt the data and only allow the customer to have access to the keys.

    So I don't know about Snowden one way or another (but I do know that the unfounded, speculative character assassination occurring on here from people who have no more knowledge than anyone else is stupidly hypocritical), nor do I know for a fact that Dropbox are actively allowing customer data to be accessed by intelligence services. What I do know is Dropbox doesn't restrict their own access to customer data, so it is logical that intelligence services could access it, given that we know they have accessed such data from Google to Microsoft in the past it is logical to assume they would require/request access to Dropbox data, and being a US incorporated company they are required to provide such access, irrespective of any possible ideological opposition management may or may not have.

    So the facts stack up - in effect, Snowden isn't telling us anything we don't already know. He's just drawing attention to specific businesses people should really be far more suspicious of in the first place.

    Finally, I do find it interesting that the comments on this article are almost universally attacking Snowden on a personal level. What difference does it make who he is if the facts bear out? Additionally, how many facts must bear out before you consider him a trustworthy source? It is clear that of the millions of pieces of data he has released, 100% of the 'stolen' (liberated?) data has proven factual, yet you choose to focus on personal details that are open to interpretation (and in many cases not absolutely knowable)? For what purpose? Simply to distract and undermine his claims? Your dislike for him personally doesn't change the facts. In fact, your single-minded focus on his personality is a sick indictment on society generally, where public perception of personality is considered more important than achievements, skills, experience or accomplishments.
  • Bingo

    Well said.

    I don't consider Snowden a hero or traitor. To say one way or the other I'd have to know his motives. To do that I'd have to know him personally, which I do not. Everybody else is just speculating and blindly hypothesizing.

    That said, Snowden's motivations are largely irrelevant to the importance of the information he released. A lot of the information that has come out absolutely needed to and I am glad it did. Evaluating the information means far more than evaluating Snowden.

    I do find it interesting that according to the article he suggests Spideroak is more trustworthy because its employees do not have access to customer data. Why is this interesting? Becuase Spideroak is U.S. based and does not have a fully open source client. I see a lot of promises from them to eventually open source everything, but that could be a lot of hot air. As of this moment that means they are A) Subject to U.S. laws on data collection and B) Using software of unknown provenance to guarantee privacy. Does anyone else see a problem with this? Did he even really say this? Odd indeed.