Dropbox updates its TOS: Adds Government Data Requests Principals

By at 21 February, 2014, 11:09 am

Privacy by Alan CleaverDropbox has a bit of a history when it comes to securing your information and who has access to it. It is definitely not the most secure file synchronization service available, but the reality is that it just works and is easy to use. Despite security concerns raised by many in the technology community, Lawyers and firms continue to use Dropbox and I don't foresee that changing anytime in the near future. Dropbox recently announced changes in its Terms of Service and its Privacy policy. The interesting piece of this to me is the Government Data Requests Principals in the Privacy Policy.

Under current federal law, details about requests made via  FISA  cannot be disclosed (although this may be changing). However, I find that Dropbox's efforts in disclosing the number of requests and other information requested of it that it can to be a step in the right direction. You can read these principals for your self here and I have provided the full text below:

Dropbox's Government Data Requests Principles

We understand that when you entrust us with your digital life, you expect us to keep your stuff safe. Like most online services, we sometimes receive requests from governments seeking information about our users. These principles describe how we deal with the requests we receive and how we’ll work to try to change the laws to make them more protective of your privacy.

Be transparent:  Online services should be allowed to report the exact number of government data requests received, the number of accounts affected by those requests, and the laws used to justify the requests. We’ll continue to advocate for the right to provide this important information. Learn more.
Our Transparency Report discloses the number of law enforcement requests we receive and the number of accounts affected. Currently, our report doesn’t include specific details about the number of national security requests we receive from the US government, if any. We’ve urged the courts and the government to allow services like Dropbox to disclose the precise number of national security requests they receive and the number of accounts affected. We’ll continue this fight. In the meantime, we’re providing as much information about national security requests received and accounts affected as allowed.
Fight blanket requests:  Government data requests should be limited to specific people and investigations. We’ll resist requests directed to large groups of people or that seek information unrelated to a specific investigation. Learn more.
The US government has been seeking phone records from telecommunications companies related to large groups of users without suspicion that those users have been involved in illegal activity. We don’t think this is legal and will resist requests that seek information related to large groups of users or that don’t relate to specific investigations.
Protect all users:  Laws authorizing governments to request user data from online services shouldn’t treat people differently based on their citizenship or where they live. We’ll work hard to reform these laws. Learn more.
Certain laws give people different protections based on where they live or their citizenship. These laws don’t reflect the global nature of online services. We’re committed to extending fundamental privacy protections to all users: government data requests shouldn’t be in bulk, they should relate to specific individuals and investigations, and a neutral third party should evaluate and sign off on requests for content before they issue.
Provide trusted services:  Governments should never install backdoors into online services or compromise infrastructure to obtain user data. We’ll continue to work to protect our systems and to change laws to make it clear that this type of activity is illegal.Learn more.
There have been reports that governments have been tapping into data center traffic of other services. We don’t believe this is right. Governments should instead request user data by contacting online services directly and presenting legal process. This allows services to scrutinize the data requests and resist where appropriate.

Balancing the needs of government to protect its citizens against our rights under the Constitution is a difficult task at the best of times. Lately, the government is perceived by many to be overstepping its authority. However, until this is resolved with either by Congress and the President or the Courts, efforts such as those by Dropbox are a positive effort.

Photo by Alan Cleaver under a CC license 



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