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After Snowden slams Dropbox (twice), CEO responds: 'It's a trade-off'

It's not the most reassuring comments you'd want to hear if you stored your small or medium-sized business data in Dropbox's cloud service.
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Written by Zack Whittaker on
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Image: TechRepublic/CBS Interactive

Edward Snowden has thrown rocks at file storage service Dropbox on two occasions. The first time, the U.S. surveillance whistleblower called it "hostile to privacy." The second? He simply called on its users to "get rid" of it.

Now, Dropbox chief executive Drew Houston responded to those accusations. Spoiler alert: he could've done better, considering he's also appealing to the enterprise and business customers his company supports, the money-makers of his show.

He said although users could do more to encrypt their data, it's a "trade-off between usability, convenience, and security," saying that the company offers people "choice."

Those trade-offs, he suggested, meant that although users can encrypt their Dropbox storage with third-party tools (and are allowed to), Dropbox's own features will be degraded, like file previews, search, and revision histories. 

Some people want those features, while others want to use cloud storage for multi-device access but with high-levels of encryption.

And anyone who's tried to encrypt files on their computers or devices will know that it's not as easy as it should be. 

It's not to say that, sans encryption, there's no security. Files sent and received from Dropbox are encrypted between users and the site's servers, as well as when they're stored on Dropbox servers. That's security 101. Snowden, who pointed to SpiderOak as a better alternative, goes one step further by offering on-device encryption as well. And it's said that the Snowden-approved company cannot access this data as it doesn't store the keys.

Dropbox, in effect, offers much of the same features and functionality as Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and other services. The charm is that they are user friendly. The experience and interfaces are easy. You just fling in your files, and you're off. 

Arguably, Dropbox is just doing what it does best in that it's giving its users what they want. Not many want encryption. But until there's an appetite for it, it's not in Dropbox's best interests to make it happen. 

And if the Snowden disclosures haven't pushed users into wanting encryption, it's hard to see anything changing people's minds.

(via TechCrunch)

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