Anti-Dropbox protests flare as Condoleezza Rice joins board

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11 April 2014 | 0

With the unveiling of new Carousel and Mailbox apps and the rolling out of Dropbox for Business, CEO Drew Houston made it clear on Wednesday that Dropbox wants to be a bigger part of your day-to-day life. But protesters are threatening to ditch Dropbox from their life completely, thanks to yesterday’s appointment of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Dropbox board.

The grumbles began on Twitter and Reddit mere minutes after the announcement was made, and they’ve only continued to grow since then. A Drop Dropbox protest page has appeared (complete with a guide to several Dropbox alternatives), and it’s been upvoted to the highly trafficked Reddit front page, as well as the front page of Reddit’s technology section.

The Drop Dropbox website says its concerns are “not an issue of partisanship,” but goes on to list some very partisan objections to Rice’s appointment, such as her role in the Iraq War, the Bush-era torture scandals, and the fact that she was on the board of directors at the Chevron oil company.

Most of the Twitter complaints stem from a more Dropbox-related issue: Rice supports warrantless wiretaps and has a generally pro-surveillance political stance (an issue that Drop Dropbox also touches upon). Given that Dropbox has such deep access to the files of its 275 million users, and that the information collection should only increase if users start using auxiliary services like Carousel and Mailbox en masse, Rice’s appointment has struck a collective nerve.

It doesn’t help that Dropbox was busted for peeking at user files stored on its servers this past September. Dropbox responded that accessing data was necessary to generate the document previews, and that doing so was a completely automated process. Dropbox policy forbids all but a small number of employees from accessing user data.

Dropbox was also listed as ‘coming soon’ in the explosive PRISM surveillance documents revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

To be fair, Dropbox itself has taken part in the tech industry’s legal complaints protesting the NSA’s Internet surveillance and revamped its privacy policy in February, partially to address surveillance concerns. The company also publishes yearly transparency reports.

Rice isn’t likely to have any day-to-day access to Dropbox files in her boardroom role, either – though it’s easy to see why her appointment makes privacy advocates sweat profusely. If nothing else, it’s a shockingly tone-deaf move by Dropbox when the tension around Web surveillance is so thick, even if Rice’s background in other areas makes her an appealing board candidate.


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