Why I Stopped Using Dropbox

Why I stopped using Dropbox

Everyone’s favourite – Dropbox. Praised for incredible acquisition plan, ease-of-use, smart business decisions, great design and 3rd party integration.

I agree with all of this. I believe Dropbox is an amazing service run by amazing people (from what I can tell reading some of their stuff online, never met anyone personally). I was telling people they should register, sent countless number of invites to friends and family and used word of mouth probably like never before when it comes to online service. You could call me brand evangelist, or some other fancy term used for a happy customer simply telling others how happy he is with the service.

Why did you stop using it then?

One might ask. It’s pretty simple – privacy. Ever since I learned that Dropbox will share all my personal details and files with National Security Agency (feel free to swap with “security” “national” “protection” “life-saving-terrorist-stopping-agency” happy bunch) I felt uneasy. And just before anyone says “I have nothing to hide” – it’s not about this, it’s a poor explanation to a serious privacy issue we as society are facing. It’s about someone peeking at your personal life. I have nothing to hide. I’m a still-managing-to-be-middle-class work-going law-abiding citizen (ok, I did get a speeding ticket last year).

When someone uses the “I have nothing to hide” argument I ask them if I can have a look at ALL their photos and videos? I also ask them if I can go through their text messages and watch them having their Skype and Google Hangouts conversations. Would you let me do that? Would you let your friend  do that? Ok, maybe best friend. But what about your colleagues at work, or your acquaintances? Perhaps some people would.

The real question here is: “Why would you let a complete strange collect and go through all your personal files?” I asked myself this question and realized I don’t want this. Do I have to comply with invasion on my privacy? Of course I don’t. That’s why I stopped using Dropbox.

What do Dropbox say?

The problem is that Dropbox, even though they encrypt files, can still access it and will share it if requested. Here’s an excerpt from their “How secure is Dropbox?” help article:

Dropbox employees are prohibited from viewing the content of files you store in your account. Employees [highlight] may access [/highlight] file metadata (e.g., file names and locations) when they have a legitimate reason, like providing technical support. Like most online services, we have [highlight] a small number of employees who must be able to access user data for the reasons stated in our privacy policy (e.g., when legally required to do so) [/highlight] . But that’s the rare exception, not the rule. We have strict policy and technical access controls that prohibit employee access except in these rare circumstances.

For your reference, here’s their “Transparency Report“. When the company say they received between 0 and 249 National Security Processes which affected between 0 and 249 accounts that vague number is hardly transparent, if you ask me.

Dropbox state they will “fight blanket requests” requests from government. That’s sweet. They don’t say they will NOT comply, though.

Conclusion and alternatives

I am no security specialist. I am but mere internet user. I do not say there’s more secure solutions to Dropbox (Mega, PeakDrive), because anything can be hacked and is as secure as your password. Just to clarify it’s not about the technicalities of “how long does it take to crack this or that encryption type etc.” It’s about the way the company you entrust with your private files will handle your stuff. If there’s a complete stranger that can decrypt YOUR files, go through them and hand over to 3rd party – I don’t like that. What can I do? Find a better place for my files that will honour my privacy.

And if you’re interested more in how Dropbox is compliant with certain security standards, go and read “Dropbox is peeking at your files great article by Tony Bradley at CSO Security and Risk.

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