The Dropbox Controversy

The Dropbox Controversy

The two most popular cloud services in the market among mere mortals are Gmail/Google Docs and Dropbox. To many, these have become the Mecca of file sharing.

However, questions and doubt always accompany popularity. For the last couple of years, Google has been subjected to a barrage of criticism. Google, as we all know, provides many free cloud services, and this has become both their strongest selling point and also their weakest feature.

Many question the sincerity of the free service. Many critics think that no company will give away anything unless they get something in return. Google answered the criticism with a predictable defense. They said they earn through ads, and that although they track usage of their users, they do not identify them. It allows users to keep their privacy, and Google to earn money.  The critics aren’t done with Google, but they sure have slowed down a bit.

This year, the Dropbox cloud service seems to be finding itself in the same position. Puppet Labs CEO, Luke Kanies, pointed out the incredible amount of data that Dropbox holds. There are also a lot of confidential documents in there. Furthermore, the huge file-size limit of Dropbox allows users to send full videos, songs, and other medis files. All this prompted Kanies to ask whether the whole setup is even legal.  Although it sounds like this is one of those pretentious sermons, it is an important point.

Every American is protected by the Fourth Amendment, but it is also that same Fourth Amendment that puts intellectual properties in peril. There are no clear guidelines on how companies or other people may or may not use files that are saved in the cloud. There are also no clear guidelines on how the cloud is supposed to be used. This has been a long-standing legal debate, primarily because the Internet is a truly young technology, something the writers of the constitution didn’t even visualize. This leaves a lot of questionable, grey areas relating to cloud services.

For one, companies are starting to adapt app-centric environments. They are leaving behind their old infrastructures and making the move, all because of the promise of efficiency in time, money, and process. An app-centric environment allows them to concentrate on strategic concepts and allow others to develop apps that will help them execute their strategies.

Dropbox is enabling a large number of employees to share files easily, and as adoption grows, there is little thought put into what happens to the file once it is on the cloud.

Furthermore, file sharing through Dropbox is not regulated. Anyone you share your files with might open and view your file. This poses many questions about what people can actually share. Are employees allowed to share company documents using a free public cloud? Are people allowed to share songs and movies through Dropbox?

Obviously, these questions remain unanswered, and it will most likely stay that way until the courts gain enough understanding of this new technology. No law book taught them about this. If applying classic concepts like the Fourth Amendment fails, what will happen to files and data stored in the cloud?

By Kaamil Nakhasi

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