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Lack of Privacy in Free Cloud Storage Services

Lack of Privacy in Free Cloud Storage Services

Storing information in the cloud has turned into one of the more convenient technologies for work. People easily adopted many online storage services like Google Drive and other similar services like OneDrive and Dropbox because they allow access to the information and files from any device, anywhere. There is no longer a need to carry with the files in a USB drive or to email yourself anything. With people owning and working from different devices, being able to have the information handy always is a great plus. However, we rarely stop and think about the risks and downsides of storing important information in services like Google Drive. International private investigators urge people to be cautious and to consider the risks when using free cloud storage services.

Privacy advocates have important issues with this kind of services, not because the information is in the cloud, but because of the use that companies like Google apply to it.  Read the user agreement and privacy policy for Google before you upload any files or images to Google Drive.  You must agree to them using, sharing, distributing, editing or selling your information however they wish.  Sound extreme?  It is.  But, luckily for Google, not many people read the agreement.

Computer and privacy experts say the safest option is to avoid storing images and files in the cloud that you don’t want to end up in the wrong hands, or used in an inappropriate way.  The safest storage method is not in the cloud, but on a physical hard drive, USB or other local device.

Recent events, including NSA spying and incredibly convincing phishing scams, have some users worried. Influential figures in the privacy field like Edward Snowden have many times criticized the lack of privacy protection that many of the online services provide. Further than that, thousands of people use free cloud storage services without even setting minimum privacy settings, which allows anyone on the internet to access the information. Thousands of files are found all around the web with specific data of sales reports, marketing leads, company investment strategies and all sorts of confidential information because users do not know how to use these tools properly. For the past few years, investigators from Wymoo International have been advising people to protect their data and to be very careful with the information they share online, including that which is not intended to be public.

Although keeping your information safe from hackers and fraudsters is extremely important, not all the risks come from outsiders. Sometimes, the greatest security threats come from the service providers themselves. Google is probably the most questioned cloud provider due to the magnitude of their size and the amount of people their services (and lack of privacy) impacts. As a matter of fact, one of the most criticized things in Google’s services is that there isn’t actually a specific privacy policy for each of their services, but rather a unified privacy policy, with many interpretations.

According to Google’s terms, uploading content to their services gives them a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The license agreement does state in the preceding section that users remains the rightful owners of the content according to intellectual property rights, however the license still gives Google the permission to use the information however they want.

In this scenario, privacy settings seem to be designed more to make people feel safe -although this is actually a false sense of safety- than to really help people protect their information. Cloud technology is intended to make collaboration and work easier by using less resources, but when big companies take over then the real intentions are skewed into fulfilling the company’s own purposes.

The information stored in this free cloud storage services is used to create advertising profiles, and it is constantly screened for mass surveillance purposes. The confrontation between Apple and the FBI over the information stored in iPhones has put the discussion in the table again: who owns the information stored in the cloud? The companies that provide the service? The government? The users?

Being aware of the risks is the first step to protecting yourself. To sum it up, free cloud storage services may not be the best place to keep your personal or business data!

C. Wright
© 2016 Wymoo International
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