So what have we learned? Well, in order to run a massive online service that handles tons of user data, you need a lot of permissions from those users. Those permissions are fairly standardized, since the underlying copyright law itself is static — companies like Microsoft and Google need permission to copy and distribute your content to servers around the world to make services like Drive and SkyDrive work well. There’s also a tension between friendly language and legal precision — drawing in sharp lines often requires aggressive wording, while there’s real comfort in vagaries.
In the end, though, the actual wording of these documents doesn’t reveal much — they all set out to do the same thing, and they all accomplish their goals. What’s most important is how much trust you’re willing to give companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Dropbox as more and more of your data moves to the cloud. Contracts are meaningful and important, but even the most noble promises can easily be broken. It’s actions and history that have consequences, and companies that deal with user data on the web need to start building a history of squeaky-clean behavior before any of us can feel totally comfortable living in the cloud.
In the spirit of his traditional legal analyses, Patel has utterly shattered any lingering inaccuracies dogging various cloud storage services.
At the end of the day, as Patel writes, the matter is settled by the amount of trust you are willing to lend to such an entity. Regardless of any preconceptions otherwise, these companies are simply not out to hurt you or your assets, but caution is obviously warranted.
Having said that, I’m relieved that some semblance of level-headedness remains accessible amidst the widespread paranoia of others. As I’ve written before, there is simply no reason to assume the ill-intent of companies such as Google. Until one of these companies truly betrays the trust of its users, I stand firm as an advocate of innovation — not fearful avoidance.