Tag Archives: Dropbox

Making Sense of Terms of Service (a.k.a. EULAs)

We’ve all done it. Yes, you have. Don’t deny it.Question mark smilie

“Done what?” you ask.

Rapidly read, or purposely skipped, a EULA for a software or app download.

What’s a EULA? over time you wish to use free or paid software or apps, you must agree to an End-User Licensing Agreement or EULA (their terms and conditions) before you’re allowed to download said software.

Most standard EULAs exist to protect developer ideas along with their licensing partners. This is especially true for apps. Many apps are independently created and sold for distribution to software giants like Google Play or The App Store (Apple).

The trouble is some EULAs aren’t standard. These EULAs are the problem causers.

timeThe trap many computer users fall into is the time trap. That’s the place where not-enough-hours-in-the-day meets the-abyss-of-EULA-legalese.

Some Time Management Thoughts

  • iTunes and Mag+ Publisher EULAs are each 33 pages long and over 15,000 words.
  • Paypal’s User Agreement has 16 sections for a grand total of 61 pages and over 26,000 words.

Guess how many words are in a novella? Yep, same amount: 17,500 to 40,000. And novellas are light reading. EULAs? Not so much.

I somewhat understand the Paypal EULA length since it’s a banking service, but still. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paypal. It keeps my credit card/banking info on one site rather than spread all over the internet.

More EULA Food for Thought

  • A few days ago, Nintendo updated its EULA for the Wii U gaming console.

If you don’t accept their new EULA terms, your game console shuts down and becomes unusable. Really nice after you’ve shelled out $300 or more USD for it originally.

The truly bothersome thing is the presidence Nintendo is setting. Now EULAs not only affect digital content, but actual physical items.

I know what you’re thinking, “Nintendo can’t do that. EULA’s aren’t really legally binding”.

If EULAs are or aren’t lawful depends solely upon the court trying the case. There have been court cases — ProCD, Inc. v. Zeidenberg is cited regularly — where courts have upheld the legality of EULAs.

So if EULA’s might be legally binding, what’s to safeguard the innocent computing public?Flying contract

We all know even when we read contracts sometimes the legal descriptions and verbiage just flies right over our heads. True enough? Not to mention the “boring” factor.

Here’s the blog section where I actually give you useful information. I knew you’d be happy.

First, some EULAs should be read in their entirety.

I’m talking about investment or financial sites. You have hard currency deposited with these places so you need to know what’s in their EULAs.

I’m also talking about sites that have access to your personal information.

Second, the following trick doesn’t work on EULAs that display in a pop-up window. However, it’s very useful for EULAs that display in .pdf form or browser windows.

Saving Time Reading EULAs

STEP 1: Know problematic EULA terms and phrases.

The terms or phrases the standard computing public should look out for include:

  • unlawful
  • pay/purchase*
  • share/give*
  • allow
  • trial*
  • rights
  • install*
  • uninstall/removal*

The asterisks (*) are the important ones, in my opinion (and that’s why you read this blog).

What we’re looking for with these terms are EULAs that state: a) they share or give your personal information away to other sites, b) may install other things on your computer (tracking software, tool bars, etc.), c) you can’t remove their software once you’ve installed it — Ha! I’d like to see them stop me — and d) you have to pay for something after a trial period, often at a cost that’s mind-boggling.

STEP 2: Determine if the EULA is a pop-up or not. This is easy. If it looks like the below example, and you can only click decline/accept or agree/disagree, it’s a pop-up. If that’s the case, I suggest you read it.
Adobe EULA WindowRemember, we can’t search a pop-up window for suspicious or unusual terms.

STEP 3: For a EULA in a browser window, Press Ctrl + F to search for terms or phrases.
EULA in Browser WindowNotice the nice box in the lower left corner? This is where you type your search criteria or terms.

STEP 4: Type in each term you wish to search out separately (see Step 1) then press Enter.

STEP 5: Use the up and down arrows to the right of the search box to view all your finds.

DISCLAIMER: This is my personal strategy. I am sharing it with the intent to help you avoid wasted time, and worse, legal problems. Use these techniques at your own risk. I am not a lawyer nor have I ever desired to be one.

Things You Should Know

1) When you put software on your computer, you do not now, nor will you ever, own it.

Most software is copyright by the developer(s) or the company who paid big bucks to the developer(s) to own it, and that wasn’t you.

Here’s an analogy. Written works are copyrights of the author who created them. You can pay $4.99 for a book, but you don’t own those writings. You own the book to read those writings, but not the original text.

It’s the same with computer software. But unlike books, you can’t loan a computer program to a friend for two weeks then get it back.

2) Many EULAs limit the resale of digital content. This has a lot to do with owner versus user rights like the ones we talked about above.

In 2010, a court upheld a developer’s right not to have its software resold courtroomor transferred by the original purchaser as stated in its EULA. This case came about by — you guessed it — a resale of software on Ebay.

The new and unopened software was resold by a gentleman who bought it at a business liquidation auction. The case started in 2008, and went back and forth on appeals. Check out Vernor v. Autodesk.  It’s interesting reading for computer geeks… and maybe even if you’re not.

Interesting Items in EULAs

Did you know…?

  • You can’t use iTunes for warfare.

“You also agree that you will not use these products for any purposes prohibited by United States law, including, without limitation, the development, design, manufacture, or production of nuclear, missile, or chemical or biological weapons.”

Personally, I’ve considered calling the Pentagon several times with suggestions of certain pop and rap songs usable as auditory weapons of mass destruction.

  • EA (Electronic Arts, a game company) isn’t responsible for “…LOSS OF GOODWILL, WORK STOPPAGE…”

Meaning if you fight with a friend over an EA game, don’t call them for bail, or if you call in sick or late for work because of their game and get fired, you can’t sue them for lost wages. Makes perfect sense to me.

  • Facebook can give anyone your info at anytime.

“…you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”

Facebook does give you an out by stating the above is “subject to your privacy and application settings”. So if you have strict privacy settings, they won’t give away as much of your stuff to everyone else on the net. They explain their reasoning in the next blurb.

“When you publish content or information using the Public setting, it means that you are allowing everyone, including people off of Facebook, to access and use that information, and to associate it with you (i.e., your name and profile picture).”

Last Thoughts on EULAs:

  • A few weeks ago I blogged about unknowingly adding tool bars to your computer (Extra Annoying Programs). Some EULAs do this.

Be careful to uncheck any boxes that could download extra content to your computer or browser before you agree to a EULA.

My Suggestion

contractIf you must pick and choose which EULAs to read, read the ones that matter.

Those would be from banks and financial institutes, and any site that has access to your private information.

On the freebie programs with no personal info, I’d search for download, tracking, location, and call it good.


1) You’re looking for anything downloading you don’t know about, and 2) mobile devices now can pinpoint your location like a GPS.

Number 2 is particularly bad if strangers want to track your kids, and particularly good if you want to track your kids.

My last suggestion is to use EULAs as bedtime reading. The “boring” factor I talked about earlier really comes in handy for insomniacs.

Have a great week, and thanks for following Patti’s Pathways. 🙂

Related posts you might like: How Secure is Dropbox? Extra Annoying Programs

DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.


How Secure is Dropbox?

I was invited to Dropbox many, many months ago. I scanned info about it and decided the security risk might not be worth the free membership. I didn’t need it at the time so I shoved it into the recesses of my cluttered little mind.

Recently, I wished to download a free ebook. It comes Dropboxto me via Dropbox.

Now I had a decision to make. Did I pay $10 for the ebook or did I take the plunge and download Dropbox?

I downloaded Dropbox.

My first concern with Dropbox was at sign up. Their Terms Of Service shot me in the face at pointblank range.

“When you use our Services, you provide us with things like your files, content, email messages, contacts and so on (“Your Stuff”).”

Whoa. Hold on, buddy. I’m providing you with my files? How many of my files? I’m providing you with content? What kind of content and how much of it? The list of questions went on and on.

I was not letting Dropbox, or anyone else, get the drop on me. It was notcowboy hat rifling through my confidential files. I bank online, I dabble in the stock market online, and more.

It was time to saddle up and investigate.

Is Dropbox Secure?

My first order of business was to figure out what exactly Dropbox did.

Dropbox is a server that houses whatever you save to it — or anyone else saves to it — for later use by you or anyone you want to share “Your Stuff” with.

Okie dokie. That’s fine. But the elephant — or Clydesdale since I’m on an American West theme today — in the room is how deeply into my computer can an install of Dropbox dig? And could the Dropbox desktop program installed on my computer access my files without my permission?

My first clues are in Dropbox’s Privacy Policy.

1)  “If you give us access to your contacts, we’ll store those contacts on our servers for you to use.”

“If you give us access” calmed me. It told me unless I was an idiot and uploaded something, they couldn’t access it.

FYI: This quote refers to the option they give you to upload your contact list. You can; I didn’t.

2) Dropbox will legally protect my data the same if “… it’s stored on our services or on [my] home computer’s hard drive.”

This just told me Dropbox can’t access my hard drive. Only the files I choose to upload to their site. But I am gambling on the fact they have no security holes allowing unauthorized people to rustle information off my computer’s hard drive.

3) “Dropbox uses certain trusted third parties …. These third parties will access your information only to perform tasks on our behalf … “

clock with wingsI don’t have time to check out Dropbox’s trusted third parties. I am taking a leap of faith here, and praying they’d pass muster with me.

4) Dropbox also says I can — not they will — give third parties access to my info and Dropbox account. They mean third-party apps I choose to use with Dropbox.

5) Dropbox says they keep my information safe with “two-factor authentication, encryption of files at rest, and alerts when new devices and apps are linked to [my] account.”

I am very happy with the latter two statements. The first? Not so much. I pay per text received or sent.

I know what you’re thinking, We’re taking piggy banktechnology advice from a woman who has no keypad on her phone?

My personal economic philosophy is pretty much use what you have as long as it’s cost-effective, getting the job done and repairable. When it’s not, it’s time to upgrade.

6)  Dropbox’s Terms of Service include: “We need your permission to do things like hosting Your Stuff, backing it up, and sharing it.”

This tells me since my permission is needed to do things their site is designed to do, they won’t be doing anything their site isn’t designed to do …unless I give them permission.

Would I recommend Dropbox?

For some things, I would.

Dropbox seems a God-send for business people who work away from the office, and for business teams or students working on projects without the ability or need to meet frequently.

Dropbox allows a person invited to view a file to edit it also. FYI: Dropbox is working on a Read Only business option.

Any downside?

Besides security issues — I know, I know. Dropbox says they’re as secure as your bank. I’m not buying it  — the only downside I foresee is account/file maintenance.

  • Any file edited on Dropbox must be downloaded and resaved by each participant who wants/needs a final copy.
  • Once a project is finished, and all the participants have resaved the product data, any Dropbox file should be deleted and cleared.

I would never use Dropbox to back up my hard drive/files and folders. There are safer and better choices for that.

Other Cautions and Concerns:

  • Early on Dropbox was not the safest cloud to float data on. But neither were a lot of others. Recently, mostly in 2014, Dropbox has dealt with issues and strengthened their security after easy infiltration by independent security researchers and the bad press that generated. I would still never use Dropbox to convey sensitive information.
  • If you think urgent security updates, changes, or notifications will be sent to you via email by Dropbox, you thought wrong. From what I’ve read, most of Dropbox’s important security explanations and/or information is only posted on their blog. You can access it at the bottom of Dropbox’s website.
  • Dropbox still seems nosey to me. Its memory banks retain things like my phone number and physical address.
  • Dropbox does have a policy titled Government Request Principals. Users rights seem to be first and foremost in Dropbox’s mind when data is requested by government entities, and I appreciate that.
  • Their encryption is server-side, not client-side. Meaning the key codes are stored along with your data on their servers. So if the data is lost to hackers, dishonest employees, etc. so is the information to decode it. 😦


  •  It’s the user’s responsiblity not to post/share files that could at any time potentially fall into the wrong hands. These would include things like your personal income tax returns, your bank statements, licenses, etc.
  • It’s always a good idea to log out of social media sites and other online sites (Dropbox included) that hold your personal information. Yes, I know it’s much easier to just leave them logged on, but logging off lessens your security risks.

Frog thoughtREADER INVITE:  There are thousands upon thousands of individual apps usable with Dropbox. I’m specifically interested in the password protection apps. The ones that keep your file password protected after it’s uploaded to Dropbox. Let me know which one is your favorite and why.

Thanks for reading, have a great day and safe computing! 😀


DISCLAIMER: Any and all ideas presented in this blog are solely my own unless otherwise noted. I experience troubles with technology just like any other person, and if I stumble upon a fix or suggestion I feel could benefit others I pass it along. At no time, have I suggested or implied that I hold any degrees or certificates related to computer repair.

I have during my career assembled parts into working computers; done troubleshooting on hardware and software; utilized a great many computer programs and software; designed and updated websites and blogs; as well as created brochures, banners, and flyers.