Who Owns Your Data? You Could Be Handing Over Your Work For Free

Who Owns Your Data

Protecting access to your data is one of the biggest issues in business today, be it from the perspective of the music, film, gaming, or software sectors. And given the news this week on alleged breaches of cyber security, it is about time people paid notice to what they actually sign up for.

Why are so many of us happy to just ignore the Terms and Conditions clauses of so many drive or cloud collaboration service providers that appear to just hand over access to your data. This may sound like another pop at the T&C’s of the likes of Google Drive, Dropbox and Huddle, but the reality is this, when you upload content to one of these services ask yourself this simple question: from that second on what rights have you given them to use or grant access to that data?

According to Lib Dem MP, Julian Huppert who stated in an interview recently: “A lot of people, a lot of companies use Gmail… If the US government can get access, that has huge implications for everybody… Are we happy with the idea the US can get access to information about what a British company, which might be competing with a US company, is doing on its Microsoft exchange server?”

Gmail is read anyway. How do you think those adverts get there? They are specifically targeted at your last email. It may be a computer, but they are still scanned. Cloud storage providers have the right to access, repurpose and publish your content. You gave them that right when you ticked the box and used the service. The only question is – what level of privacy are we prepared to relinquish, in the name of security, ease of use and to help fund free services? Surely as a legislator you should really be reading your T&Cs more closely!

Adding insult to injury many of the T&Cs we have researched are incredibly muddied. For example Google Drive’s T&Cs state that ‘you retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.’

However it then goes on to say: ‘When you upload or otherwise submit content to our services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.’

Taking a closer look at Amazon AWS and you see a similar picture. Its T&Cs state: ‘8.1 Your Content. As between you and us, you or your licensors own all rights, title, and interest in and to your content. Except as provided in this Section 8, we obtain no rights under this Agreement from you or your licensors to your content, including any related intellectual property rights. You consent to our use of your content to provide the service offerings to you and any end users. We may disclose your content to provide the service offerings to you or any end users or to comply with any request of a governmental or regulatory body (including subpoenas or court orders).’

So if you value your creative work then take a close look at the T&Cs of providers and ask yourself this question: are they fit for purpose in the corporate world? I’d say the answer has to be no.

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Simon Bain

Chief architect of Simplexo's software solutions, Simon Bain is a highly respected figure in the structured markup industry and a frequent spokesman on XML applications. His recent successes include development in XML of the first secure e-voting application in the world to be authorised for use across interactive digital TV. Previously, Simon consulted for SoftQuad for several years, providing customer integrations and XML expertise. He delivered the first XML introductory seminar for IBM and is on the Board of the Sun Microsystems User Group. Simon will continue to develop Simplexo to meet market requirements and commercial opportunities.