A recent VentureBeat article Google Drive privacy policies are extremely similar to Dropbox, SkyDrive, & iCloud compares the Terms of Service (ToS) of Google Drive against the other cloud storage services and concludes that they are pretty much the same. Of course in my view that just proves that they all suck.
The most incredible statement in the article is in the last paragraph, where the writer says “We have to give up some privacy and rights to do all the cool stuff we want to do.“
No company can force any of its customers to give up any rights. Customers give up their rights because they choose to, because they have no other choice, or because they are lazy and just don’t care.
There is an implicit contract agreement that if you want to get something, you have to give up something. That’s why many contracts require a single dollar to change hands. There is nothing wrong with that as long as you enter into the agreement in full knowledge of what you are giving up and what you are getting. If you want to use GMail, you have to let Google read your mail and target advertising at you.
But sometimes the customer is not given any choice but to accept the ToC as they are given. I am astounded that every time Apple wants me to update iTunes, I have to agree to their latest ToC which is 41 pages long! There is an “I AGREE” button, but no “I DO NOT AGREE AND WANT TO CHANGE THIS AGREEMENT” button. Google has the same option to accept their terms or take a hike.
It’s also OK that sometimes a user just doesn’t care about their privacy. Sometimes the information is trivial. Sometimes the user’s identity is obscured. And yes, sometimes users just doesn’t care.
With twenty years of Internet under our belts, we have seen a gradual increase the amount of privacy that people are willing to give up. The “death of a thousand cuts” continues as we agree to more and more Terms of Service that gradually erode our privacy.
With the advent of “big data”, the gargantuan behemoths that run the Internet (and the governments they report to) have assembled massive databases of the crumbs of data that we leave behind during our on-line life. They can now connect that information into a remarkably complete profile of who we are, what we do, and what we like.
I am proud that my 15 year-old son is a cynical about the privacy intentions of most Internet services. He doesn’t use GMail, he doesn’t accept cookies, and he doesn’t post his life on FaceBook. He knows that he is giving up some conveniences, but he feels that those conveniences are not worth their cost.
We all need to take a step back and look at the privacy implications of the internet services we consume.
And most important of all, we have to take a stand and insist that we do not “have to” give up our privacy or rights.
Wally is founder and president of Canadian Cloud Computing