Edward Snowden: Dropbox is 'hostile to privacy'

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Dropbox is a very popular cloud storage service, but NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is no fan. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Snowden called Dropbox a "targeted, wannabe PRISM partner" that is "very hostile to privacy."

Snowden also isn't happy about Dropbox's decision in April to add former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to its Board of Directors. Snowden called Rice "probably the most anti-privacy official you can imagine."

Snowden said Rice was one of several people overseeing the Stellar Wind program. Stellar Wind allowed the NSA to collect some U.S. email records and Internet use for nearly 10 years following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Rice was also a proponent of warrantless wiretapping, a fact which helped inspire a grassroots campaign calling on people to "Drop Dropbox" unless the company removed Rice from its board. Dropbox CEO Drew Houston publicly supported Rice's appointment to the board in an open letter published shortly after the Drop Dropbox campaign began.

Update: Here's what Dropbox has to say:

"Safeguarding our users’ information is a top priority at Dropbox. We were not involved in PRISM, and would resist any program of its kind. We’ve made a commitment in our privacy policy to resist broad government requests, and are fighting to change laws so that fundamental privacy protections are in place for users around the world. To keep our users informed, we also disclose government requests in our Transparency Report."

As for Snowden, he says cloud companies need to move to a zero-knowledge approach, such as Dropbox competitor and online back-up provider Spider Oak. Zero-knowledge providers encrypt data before it reaches the cloud and leave the encryption key with the user. That means the user is the sole person that can unlock their data since no one else has the key. "That's the only way they [cloud providers] can prove to the customers that they can be trusted with their information," Snowden said.

While that's mostly true, there are situations where your encryption key can be exposed to zero-knowledge providers.

In the case of Spider Oak, for example, using the company's website requires the company to briefly store your password. Nevertheless, SpiderOak is certainly a solid choice for anyone looking for enhanced privacy in their backups and Dropbox-style file sync. Rolling your own cloud storage—without multi-device syncing, alas—is also possible with hardware like WD's My Cloud Mirror.

The Guardian's interview with Snowden comes just as the whistleblower's year-long asylum in Russia is set to expire on July 31. Snowden recently applied to prolong his stay in that country, according to RT.com.

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