Thursday, June 22, 2006

A warning about Internet storage

Over the last few years, services such as Gmail and Flickr have been exploding in popularity. Thousands, possibly even millions of people, have begun storing their precious memories -- photos, email conversations, or other electronic files -- using these services. There are certainly many advantages to these services.

But all is not sweetness and light. There are serious risks that need to be considered before doing so.

Imagine that you place all your photo albums in storage, so that they will be safe. Then, one day without warning, you go to the storage warehouse and discover you've been locked out and your photos and diaries have been incinerated. Or worse: the storage company has taken your property, including the screenplay you've been writing, and sold it.

If this happened with physical property, actual paper diaries and film photos, there would be little doubt that everyone would recognise it as outragous theft of private property. But unfortunately, things are not so clear-cut with electronic files.

Take for example. (I'm not linking to them deliberately -- if you want to visit their site, copy and paste the URL into your web browser address field. No free advertising from me, thank you very much.) According to reports, they've tried all the major sneaky, disreputable and downright dirty tricks in the book:

  • Apparently deliberately deleted at least one user's photos without warning -- equivalent to incinerating your photo albums in storage

  • Tried to claim ownership of all copyright and other intellectual property rights to photos stored on their site -- equivalent of claiming ownership to your property you put in storage in their warehouse

  • And now are about to hold users' photos for ransom by suspending their accounts, then deleting them, unless they upgrade to a paid service.

Of course, doesn't supply an easy tool to download your photos off their site should you wish to retrieve them. Can you say the words "locked in"?

The sad thing is that all of these things, which would be recognised as outright theft if they involved physical photos, are probably legal, thanks to the Terms of Service that users agree to. You remember the Terms of Service? You know, the 85 pages of tiny writing that you clicked "I Agree" to when you opened your account? Yes, that Terms of Service.

Yes, I am aware of the irony of placing this work on Blogspot instead of my own website. There is no need to mention it, thank you.

No comments: