I store my files on the cloud. Whenever you store your confidential stuff on someone else’s computers, you have to be wary of two things: security and privacy. A few weeks ago, I wrote this article about how to beef up your security, so today, I am going to talk about privacy.

The general consensus is that lawyers can use cloud computing. The ABA has put together this map that explains ethics opinions on the use of cloud computing by state. To sum it up, about 20 or so state bars have issued opinions that storing data in the cloud does not per se violate a lawyer’s duty of confidentiality, but you have to use reasonable care in storing your docs online.

There’s a movie on Netflix streaming right now called “Terms and Conditions May Apply.” It’s a scary documentary about how we agree to give away access to our data in the fine print of all of the internet services we use from email to social media. So, how does that relate to confidentiality of client files we store on the cloud?

Now, obviously, if we store documents on a cloud provider’s servers, that company has access to our documents, but then again, the security guards at my building have keys to all of the offices in my building, so technically, they could go through and read all of my things each night. The key difference between the two is that my building does not have a policy prohibiting me from storing certain types of papers in my desk.

That’s right, several cloud service providers have policies about the types of documents that you can store. Mostly, it’s about porn. I like charts, so I made a chart that summarizes Dropbox, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive’s policies (click for full size):

Now, first off, let me say that I do a fair amount of employment law, and I’ve done some light homicide in the past, so it’s not uncommon for me to have pleadings about butts and stuff, or photos of naked dead people on an autopsy table in my work files. So, it is possible to violate these terms without mixing personal files with business files.

But does Microsoft go into my folders and look for nude photos and delete them? The answer is yes:

 Termination and Cancellation

Microsoft reserves the right, at its sole discretion, and without any obligation to do so, to review and remove user-created services and content at will and without notice, and delete content and accounts. Microsoft reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to ban participants or terminate access to services.

From: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-live/code-of-conduct

This is probably done with some kind of an algorithm or advanced porn finding system of some kind.

But still, they go through your files without you knowing and delete things that they want to delete. If SCOTUS can’t define pornography, how can Microsoft?

So what do you think? Is storing your documents on the cloud safe or not?

Ed. note: This column has been brought to you by our friends at MyCase, web-based practice management software for lawyers. Please note, however, that the views expressed in the column are those of the writer alone.


Jeff Bennion is a solo practitioner from San Diego. When not handling his own cases, he’s consulting lawyers on how to use technology to not be boring in trial or managing e-discovery projects in mass torts/complex litigation cases. If you want to be disappointed in a lack of posts, you can follow him on twitter or on Facebook. If you have any ideas of things you want him to cover, email Jeff at jeff@trial.technology.


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