A recent update to Dropbox’s terms of service caused a huge uproar from users. The drama started on July 1st, when the updated terms of service were published to the Dropbox blog. Users were particularly upset over language that implied Dropbox could use their uploaded files anyway they deemed fit.
The paragraph published in the updated terms of service originally read,
“you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service.”
It seems kind of obvious with the language being used why users of the service might be a bit riled up. After managing a large amount of backlash and even a few deleted accounts, Dropbox revisited the terms and conditions on July 2nd. The current terms now read as follows,
“By using our Services you may give us access to your information, files, and folders (together, “your stuff”). 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.
We sometimes need your permission to do what you ask us to do with your stuff (for example, hosting, making public, or sharing your files). By submitting your stuff to the Services, you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service. This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services. You must ensure you have the rights you need to grant us that permission.”
That effectively calms the fears of upset users and emphasizes that if files are shared illegally, it’s not Dropbox’s fault. The interesting thing about the first revision of the terms, is that it specifically calls out that Dropbox occasionally needs user permission to do something with their files. When put in that light it means Dropbox can’t do anything with those files without user permission. It seems like the clarifying language wasn’t necessary for any reason other than to quiet angry users.
In addition to the updated terms of service, Dropbox also updated their APIs for mobile devices to address concerns over encrypted file names. The security document was also updated to be more complete and straight forward, which is always a positive thing. Good on Dropbox for following up and addressing user concerns quickly, even if it wasn’t totally necessary to do so.