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Top 5 worst privacy policies you’ve probably agreed to

October 3, 2014

Team Lead at Sync

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1. Apple iCloud

If you’ve got an iPhone, iPad or other Apple device you’ve probably unwittingly agreed to the iCloud terms of service which appears to give Apple the right to access your data at any time:

Apple reserves the right at all times to determine whether Content is appropriate and in compliance with this Agreement, and may pre-screen, move, refuse, modify and/or remove Content at any time …You acknowledge and agree that Apple may, without liability to you, access, use, preserve and/or disclose your Account information and Content to law enforcement authorities, government officials, and/or a third party, as Apple believes is reasonably necessary or appropriate. 

While those office pizza party photos would most likely put Apple’s pre-screeners to sleep, the thought of Apple employees accessing and modifying mission critical business data in the cloud is unsettling. We love our iPhones, but we’d never use iCloud.

2. Dropbox

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Edward Snowden called Dropbox “very hostile to privacy”, and we couldn’t agree more. Although the Dropbox terms of service appears to be written in layman’s terms, you still end up giving them permission to access your data whenever they feel they have a legitimate reason to do so:

Employees may access file metadata (e.g., file names and locations) when they have a legitimate reason, like providing technical support. Like most online services, we have 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).

Furthermore, those permissions extend to third-parties:

These and other features may require our systems to access, store and scan Your Stuff. You give us permission to do those things, and this permission extends to trusted third parties we work with.

So, by using Dropbox you may be giving a whole slew of third-party companies permission to access, store and scan your stuff. Of course you don’t have any idea who those companies are. Businesses working with sensitive client information should be extremely wary of this.

3. Gmail

If you’re a Gmail user you’ve agreed to terms of service that let Google analyze your email inbox and display relevant advertising based on your conversations:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

You probably already figured this out when dog grooming ads started following you around the internet, soon after your girlfriend sent you photos of her teacup chihuahua’s new haircut.

And while advertising seems relatively harmless, it’s troubling to think that when your client or customer sends you confidential information through email, Google will have read it before you.

4. LinkedIn

LinkedIn has reached legendary status when it comes to their terms of service and privacy policy. If you’ve got a LinkedIn profile you’ve given them permission to do whatever they want with the content and information you provide. They can spam your contact lists, sell your ideas and commercialize anything you post.

Even though you still technically own your content – so do they. Because this is what you agreed to:

You grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and/or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties.

LinkedIn’s terms of service are so over-the-top that a group of users have filed a privacy lawsuit against them. The upshot of all this? None really, as corporations like LinkedIn are now revising their terms of service to include arbitration clauses which shield them from privacy lawsuits as well.

5. Microsoft Office 365 & OneDrive

OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) is the cloud storage service Microsoft is bundling with their new Office apps. When you save a file to OneDrive you’ve automatically agreed to their terms of service which clearly outline content and actions that are grounds for account termination. Surprisingly, it all seems reasonably fair, until you get to the part where they describe what happens when they’ve discovered content deemed to be in violation of the agreement:

Microsoft or its agents will review Content in order to resolve the issue. This is in addition to the uses we describe in this Agreement and the Privacy Statements.

This means that just like Dropbox, Microsoft employees have access to view your files. The point was driven home when Forbes reported that Microsoft was spying on SkyDrive users. Microsoft spying on their users? Businesses should think twice before committing data to that sort of hostile environment.

And while we’re on the subject, the Windows 10 developer preview terms of service gave us a few laughs:

When you acquire, install and use the Program, Microsoft collects information about you, your devices, applications and networks, and your use of those devices, applications and networks … For example, when you: enter text, we may collect typed characters and use them for purposes such as improving autocomplete and spellcheck features.

We’re hopeful they’ll remove “key logging” before the public release!

What about Sync?

With, your data is encrypted client-side (on your computer) and remains encrypted in the cloud. We don’t have access to the encryption keys, which means it’s technically impossible for us to view your files. Even in the event of a subpoena we would only be able to provide encrypted data, useless without the encryption keys.

Your data is always safe and secure with Sync. Your privacy guaranteed.

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