Amazon has become the first major online retailer to offer cloud-based media storage and streaming to unlimited web or Android devices with a free basic plan. But, while this service offers a great deal of convenience to those who want to access their personal music library on the go, there is a certain amount of privacy that we’re going to have to give up in order to use it.
There are actually two different components to the new service that Amazon rolled out on Monday. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Cloud Drive is much like Dropbox in the respect that you can store any type of file there, and access it from any web-enabled device. While Cloud Drive gives you 5GB of space with their free basic plan, more than twice the space of Dropbox’s 2GB, it does lack the automatic sync feature the competition offers. There’s an MP3 Uploader, however, that will scan your iTunes or Windows Media Player library to gather MP3s, but otherwise you’re stuck with moving one file at a time – a tedious action that will quickly get old.
If you’re looking for storage beyond the free 5GB, plans ranging from 20GB to 1000GB are available for $1/GB.
Cloud Player is a free music streaming application for web and Android. The feature set is limited, although it does have playlist support. In addition to playing your own files, Amazon made it easy to purchase new music from their MP3 Store.
When signing up to use Cloud Drive and Cloud Player, you have to agree, of course, to a Terms of Service which prohibits you from uploading anything that infringes on a copyright. Also in that TOS, Amazon gains the right to monitor your account usage and retain the information for whatever purposes they wish:
“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”
What exactly does “disclose your account information and Your Files” amount to? Your guess is as good as mine. It could be harmless, but some are suggesting that Amazon could be handing over info to the RIAA so they can monitor accounts for piracy.
“I suspect that continuous inspection is part of the deal to get the music industry accept these offerings–IP radicalism at its best,” said Jan Wildeboer, Red Hat’s EMEA Open Source Evangelist.
Some may call this paranoia or fear mongering, but Wildeboer actually raises a very good point. The recording industries haven’t taken well to any sort of cloud-based music lockers in the past, and that is essentially what this is. What makes Amazon different?
Whatever the case, at least know that you’re subject to the scrutiny of Amazon and whoever else they choose to hand your information over to.