Is it my data or theirs? A frequent question I hear when people inquire about the ubiquitous cloud. It is a valid question after all. Since the data no longer resides on your servers, is it still technically yours? There are no hard and fast rules, and sometimes times companies embed clauses deep in their terms and conditions contracts, that give them free reign.
Public outcry and consequent pushback when certain policies came to light have caused cloud based services to change course a bit. But Privacy and Terms and Conditions policies change all the time, and we often agree without even reading them (myself included). Who really has the time? It can be hard to tell if you're signing your life away or not. Sometimes you care, sometimes you don't.
Often the data ownership and privacy debate is around free services like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin. Essentially, we give them certain rights to our data (mostly for the purposes of advertising) in exchange for free access to their products or services. Nothing in this world is truly free.
Most paid cloud services however, are a different story. They explicitly indicate on their site or in their Privacy policies that you own your own data, and if they don't come right out and say it, I would make an inquiry to their sales or support group prior to signing anything.
I took the time (so you don't have to) to review each of the following services to prove, that despite all the misuse and mistrust of some, there are services that have your best interests in mind.
"Salesforce.com will not review, share, distribute, or reference any such Customer Data except as provided in the salesforce.com Master Subscription Agreement, or as may be required by law. In accordance with the salesforce.com Master Subscription Agreement, salesforce.com may access Customer Data only for the purposes of providing the services, preventing or addressing service or technical problems, at a Customer’s request in connection with customer support matters, or as may be required by law."
Master agreement states:
"Subject to the limited licenses granted herein, We acquire no right, title or interest from You or Your licensors under this Agreement in or to Your Data or any Non-Salesforce.com Application or program code"
"Ownership of Data:
Title to, and all Intellectual Property Rights in, the Data remain Your property. However, Your access to the Data is contingent on full payment of the Xero Access Fee when due. You grant Xero a licence to use, copy, transmit, store, and back-up Your information and Data for the purposes of enabling You to access and use the Services and for any other purpose related to provision of services to You."
And while they don't all mention it, each service makes it easy for you to take your data with you should you decide to leave their service.
So who owns your data? It truly depends on the service you use. Just as with anything else on the web, you need to be careful. Ask before you sign on the dotted line. If the service isn't open and forthcoming then you should likely steer clear.
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