3 Questions to Ask About Free File-Hosting Services

by Robins Kaplan LLP
Contact

The landscape of data storage and maintenance is shifting. Despite significant company investments in secure, onsite data storage systems, today’s data storage environment can create challenges for many of these extensive (and expensive) efforts. Employees are increasingly storing sensitive, proprietary data on assets that their companies do not control and cannot protect on mobile devices like phones, tablets and computer flash drives.  

And then there’s the proliferation of free file-hosting services—such as OneDrive, Dropbox, Filedrive, Google Drive, MediaFire, and others —that present a far greater concern.  While a lost or stolen flash drive will ordinarily be a one-off event, the breach of a file-hosting service may go undetected by the user, resulting in serial breaches as the user updates stored content or adds new content.

To craft a data privacy and cybersecurity policy that confronts the increasing use of third-party file-hosting services and protects valuable corporate information, companies should consider three basic questions.

1. Will the file-hosting service preserve the confidentiality of the data being stored and ensure that access is limited to the user only

This issue is a critical term to share with employees. For example, Google does not provide this level of access confidentiality.  Google’s  terms of service allow Google to “use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works . . . communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute” content that users “upload, submit, store send or receive” through Google’s services.  See www.google.com/policies/terms (last modified April 14, 2014).  According to the terms of service, Google can also analyze content that is sent, received, or stored, to provide “personally relevant product features.”  This sort of third-party access to user data may be problematic, depending on the nature of the data stored.  For example, some information cannot qualify as a trade secret if the proponent of the trade secret has not taken reasonable measures to protect the confidentiality of the allegedly misappropriated information.  Third-party access to proprietary data—even for a limited purpose—may carry significant consequences.

2. Will the file-hosting service keep the data secure?

This question has several subparts, the first dealing with how access is granted. These include:

  • What level of password protection exists?

Unsurprisingly, most file-hosting services grant access through the creation of must create a User ID and a password.  But file-hosting services will inevitably implement varying parameters for password creation.  Thus, some sites may have more robust password protection measures than others.  Furthermore, there may still be room for infiltration in spite of stringent password requirements, with lurking bugs like Heartbleed allowing others to capture passwords as they are transmitted over the Internet.   

  • Who is granted access to stored content?

For example, some sites, such as Dropbox, allow users to grant others access to data stored on the service.  This feature, while undoubtedly very useful when sharing files with co-workers or other collaborators, also has the potential to increase the likelihood of unauthorized access.  Instead of obtaining access by stealing the primary user’s ID and password, an unauthorized user could also obtain access by hacking into an invited user’s e-mail or stealing an invited user’s ID and password.   

  • How does the file-hosting service protects the data that it stores?

Many file-hosting services offer assurances of security, but many are also unlikely to disclose the full range of measures taken to protect against data breaches and cyber-attacks.  In the absence of this information, a full assessment of the security risks is impossible. As a result, some data may simply be too sensitive to ever store on a third-party file-hosting service. 

3. What are the terms of use? 

A file-hosting service’s terms of use have the potential to cause problems down the road if, for example, they grant the service rights to access and use the stored data, relieve the service of any obligation to restore data that is corrupted, lost or otherwise destroyed, or relieve the service of any liability for security breaches that result in the theft of stored data.  Thus, before signing off on the use of any third-party file-hosting service, companies should assess what provisions the terms of use contain, and how those provisions might impact the data a file-hosting service stores.

Conclusion

In raising these questions, we are not suggesting that third-party file-hosting services are insecure, or inadequately protect user data.  We raise these questions because companies developing privacy and cyber security policies would benefit from taking a holistic view of how their employees use company data and where they store it.  That entails considering the extent to which their employees utilize third-party file-hosting services, and the implications that may flow from such use.  That assessment may lead to the limitation or curtailment of third-party file-hosting services, the identification of a third-party file-hosting service of choice, or something else entirely.  It depends on what the company’s objectives are in developing a privacy and cybersecurity policy, and how it answers the questions presented in this article.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Robins Kaplan LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Robins Kaplan LLP
Contact
more
less

Robins Kaplan LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.