Amazon's new Cloud Drive service has made the news recently. The service allows you to store any kind of file, and even stream music loaded to it through its Cloud Player. It would be wonderful to have such a service, but at what cost? I don't mean the price, which is free, but the conditions.
All of the headlines, features, and promises have caused the public to overlook a disturbing section of the fine print in the lengthy legal agreement. As a part of using the Cloud Drive, Amazon reserves the right to look at your files. They don't have to ask or notify you. They can even keep files you delete. They can even share this information with others. This kind of clause usually mentions something about courts, subpoenas, or some other legal context. There are no such conditions here.
"5.2.Our Right to Access Your Files. You give us the right to access, retain, use and disclose your account information and Your Files: to provide you with technical support and address technical issues; to investigate compliance with the terms of this Agreement, enforce the terms of this Agreement and protect the Service and its users from fraud or security threats; or as we determine is necessary to provide the Service or comply with applicable law."
This is in striking contrast to Dropbox, a service similar to Amazon's Cloud Drive in many ways. You can upload files to Dropbox for storage through a web interface, just like with the Cloud Drive. In the Cloud Drive, files are unencrypted, easy for the company to read. Dropbox encrypts both its connection and its files, leaving only the file names unencrypted. This is to protect your privacy, but it does come at a cost. If you have a problem with a file, and an old version is not sufficient or available, then there is not much that Dropbox's tech support can do. An IT employee at Amazon would able to take a closer look to diagnose the problem. Security is often a trade off between convenience and privacy, so there is some validity in Amazon's decision.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Amazon's 1984 incident shocked the world, and it is in a position to take such controversy to the next level. Anyone could find files missing, information leaked, or embarrassments made public. Alternatively, they could simply delete music you own.
There are some other parts of the agreement that are note worthy, but less than alarming. You are not supposed to share access of your account with anyone else. An unsurprising, and arguably sensible, clause. With no feature to share files, as found in Dropbox, this can create problems. The only way to share a file would be with a joint account, which would not be permitted in the agreement. There also is no way to publicize a file, so you cannot use the service for any kind of web hosting. In contrast, not only can Dropbox do that, but it can generate photo albums that can be shared with just a link.
To use the Service, you must have an Amazon.com account. You may only use the Service in connection with one Amazon.com account, so if you have multiple Amazon.com accounts, you'll need to choose the account you want to use for the Service. The email address and password for your Amazon.com account are all that is required for access to files you store on the Service. You are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of your account and password and preventing their misuse and you agree to accept responsibility for all activities that occur under your account. You may not use a name, username or email address that you are not authorized to use or share your Amazon.com username and password with others for purposes of allowing others to use the Service through your account. If we suspend or terminate your use of the Service or your Amazon.com account, you may not use the Service through another Amazon.com account.
There is one kind of file that makes sense to store in Amazon's Cloud Drive: any kind you got from Amazon. They already know you have it, so there is nothing for them to discover. Music is a prime example, and they literally have thousand of free songs. Several gigs of files can be loaded into the cloud drive in a single sitting, and new music purchased from Amazon (even for $0.00) never counts against your quota. This solves a problem that exists in other services: re-downloads. There is never a fee to download a song from your cloud drive. It effectively can be seen as an instant off-site backup. Hopefully Amazon will expand this service to other products such as games and movies.
While the privacy concerns limit the usefulness of Amazon's Cloud Drive, it does not make it useless. It would be inadvisable to store sensitive information on it, but it provides a perfect backup for files you purchased from Amazon.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.