DropBox, the popular online file storage and sharing service used by many iOS apps, has updated their terms of service, ostensibly to make their policies "easier to read and understand, and better reflect product improvements". This after controversies involving how they handled encryption, who could and couldn't look at your files, and an incident when passwords were disabled for a very short period of time and anyone could, theoretically peek inside. They've put up a blog post to help explain the new ToS and the reasons behind them, and are updating it as they get users' feedback. Some key points:
You retain ownership to your stuff. You are also solely responsible for your conduct, the content of your files and folders, and your communications with others while using the Services.
This is legal ass-covering. DropBox is hugely popular among iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users, primarily because it's easy to use and they provided really robust APIs that developers could use to get around Apple's up-until-now p!$$-pour file sharing abilities. A large amount of iOS users use DropBox and a large amount of DropBox users use iOS. To enable that sharing, they feel they need to "own" the files so they can avoid being sued if anything unforeseen happens (probably including legal demands.) So, if they use your files, it's not their fault. If you misuse their system, by contrast, it's all your fault. They're not taking the fall for any illegal material you choose to store there.
We wish we didn’t have to use legal terms at all, but copyright law is complicated and if we don’t get these permissions in writing, we might be putting ourselves in a tough spot down the road. Not to bore you with the details, but please take a look at the license term in the TOS. We think it’s fair and strikes the right balance: “This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services.”
The important thing to remember is this: don't consider anything you put on an internet connected device to be private. Ever. Some of it will be better protected than others. Some of it will be far less of a target than others. But anything stored can be accessed, by accident or by malicious interception. (Just ask any young star in Hollywood with a camera phone and lack of discretion, unfortunately.)
Security and convenience are always in contention and online services like DropBox fall heavily on the convenience side.
Read the whole blog post below and let DropBox -- and us -- know what you think. Will any of this change your DropBox usage? Will iCloud?
UPDATE: 1Password has a great blog post up about the DropBox changes as well. [1Password]