Comparing Skydrive and Google Drive's privacy policy

Two new cloud storage services were unveiled this week and when you store your information in the cloud, one issue comes to mind, privacy.

Google Drive and Skydrive are both backed by massive corporations who would love to have you store your information on their platters. If you are already in one ecosystem such as Gmail, Google Docs, Android, and Google+, it would make sense to then use Google Drive. Likewise, if you use Hotmail/Live, Windows Phone, Xbox and have a Windows PC, Skydrive would seem like a natural choice as well.

But, no matter which service you choose, make sure to check them out completely, including their TOS.  There is a notable difference between the two services and we have posted below a critical component of each platforms stance regarding your content.

Here is Microsoft’s stance on your content:

5. Your content

Except for material that we license to you, we don't claim ownership of the content you provide on the service. Your content remains your content. We also don't control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service.

You control who may access your content. If you share content in public areas of the service or in shared areas available to others you've chosen, then you agree that anyone you've shared content with may use that content. When you give others access to your content on the service, you grant them free, nonexclusive permission to use, reproduce, distribute, display, transmit, and communicate to the public the content solely in connection with the service and other products and services made available by Microsoft. If you don't want others to have those rights, don't use the service to share your content.

You understand that Microsoft may need, and you hereby grant Microsoft the right, to use, modify, adapt, reproduce, distribute, and display content posted on the service solely to the extent necessary to provide the service.

Please respect the rights of artists, inventors, and creators. Content may be protected by copyright. People appearing in content may have a right to control the use of their image. If you share content on the service in a way that infringes others' copyrights, other intellectual property rights, or privacy rights, you're breaching this contract. You represent and warrant that you have all the rights necessary for you to grant the rights in this section and the use of the content doesn't violate any law. We won't pay you for your content. We may refuse to publish your content for any or no reason. We may remove your content from the service at any time if you breach this contract or if we cancel or suspend the service.

Posted below are Google’s terms of service for its Cloud storage:

Your Content in our Services

Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

There is one notable difference, with Skydrive, Microsoft will only use your content "solely to the extent necessary to provide the service" which means that it is used to maintain the product, not for advertising purposes.  When you upload your content to Google, you are giving them access to use your work however they see fit. It should be noted that neither service is claiming ownership of your content. 

It is a small but notable difference. Google already uses your content in many ways to deliver targeted advertising and Microsoft has a position of letting you decide what to do with your content. Which is best for you? That's a personal decision.

Skydrive TOS | Google Drive TOS

Hat tip to TwoDigitIQ for pointing this out!

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I have account with both, and just like probably 95%+ of the users I didn't bother to actually read the TOS. That snippet shown here is exactly what I expect each company to say.

Ominous said,
Does the skydrive app download the files to the PC, or is it something like webdav?

it does indeed download the files to your PC it also automatically uploads any files you place it the skydrive folders on your PC

And I will continue to use neither and stick to non-shared methods of online storage. (Such as my own file servers)

We also don't control, verify, or endorse the content that you and others make available on the service.

I hope this is the case now, because I remember about 4 years ago my girlfriend used to collect some anime wallpapers and scans in SkyDrive, and then one day her SkyDrive storage was banned because of "copyright infringement". But I must say that about year ago her access to Skydrive was restored, but without content I think.

Firstly the scope of the Google one is not opened ended. If you research the words in a legal dictionary then match them will the case law you will see. This is the reason Google has the world wide clause.

The author also should wait till he actually has the Drive agreement before writing an article on it. The last line is in place for a reason.

TRC - ever had your drive fail? Power Outages, Stolen, etc.? I know in your own home it's protected right? Ask those who have lost years worth of pictures, data, etc due to a home invasion, fire, weather related. It happens more often than we realize.

I had a RAID 6 setup that should not most likely have failed but it did and it was under a year old. Not one drive but all 6 were bad drives from Seagate and they confirmed the firmware was the culprit. But that does not give me my lost data back and believe me I miss it often!!!

I have another RAID 6 setup again but all the pictures, etc are uploaded to the SKYDRIVE and Dropbox. The movies and music can be replaced but my pictures and important documents cannot and it has caused me many nights of frustration not having them.

mrmomoman said,
TRC - ever had your drive fail? Power Outages, Stolen, etc.? I know in your own home it's protected right? Ask those who have lost years worth of pictures, data, etc due to a home invasion, fire, weather related. It happens more often than we realize.

I had a RAID 6 setup that should not most likely have failed but it did and it was under a year old. Not one drive but all 6 were bad drives from Seagate and they confirmed the firmware was the culprit. But that does not give me my lost data back and believe me I miss it often!!!

I have another RAID 6 setup again but all the pictures, etc are uploaded to the SKYDRIVE and Dropbox. The movies and music can be replaced but my pictures and important documents cannot and it has caused me many nights of frustration not having them.


was it really unrecoverable? I had HDD failure once on my laptop and it contained a lot of work I done over the years. it was extra frustrating that even though I have a lot of practice in data recovery, once it's a hardware issue I can't do a thing. but I didn't give up and found a company that actually does recover the data even from physically broken HDD's (by replacing disks in same model of HDD that acts as a donor). It was pricey (around 500$), but the data (that I created and is unique) in other hand is priceless, so I'm glad I had it fully recovered (even with Windows intact) and from now on backup my data by syncing to several PC's.

Hard drives don't fail that often, and certainly not entire raids. You had some really bad luck there but that's why you don't trust hard drives alone. For important documents, family photos, and things like that I also keep copies on optical formats and you always always keep copies at another location. The most irreplaceable stuff on an MO disc in a bank vault is far more secure than trusting some online marketing company with it. Besides if my house burned down my files would be the last thing I cared about.

How about the third choice, an external hard drive. That way you never have to worry about download times, your internet being down, the storage provider being down, hacked, losing or "using" your files, etc. You always have them right there with you. I really don't get it, why would you use these services?

I agree you shouldn't put "all your eggs in one basket". However, you should encrypt any sensistive data no matter where you store it. I think Microsoft's policy is much more favorable to us. I know personally their emloyees (as well) can't get to your information.

Brad, you should be more blunt, Microsoft's policy is much more user friendly than Google's. Too many people trust Google blindly.

Hahaiah said,
Know what I really want. Truecrypt containers that are mountable from the cloud.

This is one of those moments where you see that people don't realize what features they already have available to them.

You don't even need Truecrypt, but could use it if you wanted.. The most 'secure' and easiest way to do this is just to use a Bitlocker encrypted VHD and throw it on SkyDrive.

Then you have a 'mounted' 'encrypted' volume that is available from the cloud, just like you want.

Instructions to create one:

1) Open Computer Management (Disk Management)
2) Right click - Create VHD
3) Name it and put it in your SkyDrive folder. (Using the new App)
4) Initialize it, and create Simple Volume, format NTFS
5) Open Bitlocker Drive Encryption - The new VHD will appear.
6) Click (Turn on Bitlocker) next to the drive - It will be under Bitlocker to Go

Done...


PS Just in case you are worried about 'security', Microsoft's encryption on SkyDrive is as 'extensive' and powerful as Bitlocker or TrueCrypt, and is not accessible by anyone but you. Go look up the encryption technologies in use on SkyDrive, 256bit media level encryption, and your 'token key' based on your GUID used to 'encrypt' the content in addition to encryption on top of that with Triple DES too.

So you already have a high level of encryption available just using SkyDrive as normal.

Throwing a Bitlocker VHD or Truecrypt drive on SkyDrive means that instead of 12 billion years to access your data that SkyDrive provides, it would take around 100 billion years to break into your data.

With regard to the article, and in contrast, it takes a Google employee 1 second to access and read your data.

Edited by thenetavenger, Apr 25 2012, 2:07am :

thenetavenger said,

This is one of those moments where you see that people don't realize what features they already have available to them.

You don't even need Truecrypt, but could use it if you wanted.. The most 'secure' and easiest way to do this is just to use a Bitlocker encrypted VHD and throw it on SkyDrive.

Then you have a 'mounted' 'encrypted' volume that is available from the cloud, just like you want.

Instructions to create one:

1) Open Computer Management (Disk Management)
2) Right click - Create VHD
3) Name it and put it in your SkyDrive folder. (Using the new App)
4) Initialize it, and create Simple Volume, format NTFS
5) Open Bitlocker Drive Encryption - The new VHD will appear.
6) Click (Turn on Bitlocker) next to the drive - It will be under Bitlocker to Go

Done...


PS Just in case you are worried about 'security', Microsoft's encryption on SkyDrive is as 'extensive' and powerful as Bitlocker or TrueCrypt, and is not accessible by anyone but you. Go look up the encryption technologies in use on SkyDrive, 256bit media level encryption, and your 'token key' based on your GUID used to 'encrypt' the content in addition to encryption on top of that with Triple DES too.

With regard to the article, and in contrast, it takes a Google employee 1 second to access and read your data.

Very useful guide.
Thank you

Excuse me for not researching this myself but please answer this question - if you change one file in the volume does that mean the entire volume must then be reindexed? What if the volume is 1gb and you are changing a 1kb file?

thenetavenger said,

This is one of those moments where you see that people don't realize what features they already have available to them.

You don't even need Truecrypt, but could use it if you wanted.. The most 'secure' and easiest way to do this is just to use a Bitlocker encrypted VHD and throw it on SkyDrive.

Then you have a 'mounted' 'encrypted' volume that is available from the cloud, just like you want.

Instructions to create one:

1) Open Computer Management (Disk Management)
2) Right click - Create VHD
3) Name it and put it in your SkyDrive folder. (Using the new App)
4) Initialize it, and create Simple Volume, format NTFS
5) Open Bitlocker Drive Encryption - The new VHD will appear.
6) Click (Turn on Bitlocker) next to the drive - It will be under Bitlocker to Go

Done...


PS Just in case you are worried about 'security', Microsoft's encryption on SkyDrive is as 'extensive' and powerful as Bitlocker or TrueCrypt, and is not accessible by anyone but you. Go look up the encryption technologies in use on SkyDrive, 256bit media level encryption, and your 'token key' based on your GUID used to 'encrypt' the content in addition to encryption on top of that with Triple DES too.

So you already have a high level of encryption available just using SkyDrive as normal.

Throwing a Bitlocker VHD or Truecrypt drive on SkyDrive means that instead of 12 billion years to access your data that SkyDrive provides, it would take around 100 billion years to break into your data.

With regard to the article, and in contrast, it takes a Google employee 1 second to access and read your data.

thenetavenger said,

This is one of those moments where you see that people don't realize what features they already have available to them.

You don't even need Truecrypt, but could use it if you wanted.. The most 'secure' and easiest way to do this is just to use a Bitlocker encrypted VHD and throw it on SkyDrive.

Then you have a 'mounted' 'encrypted' volume that is available from the cloud, just like you want.

Instructions to create one:

1) Open Computer Management (Disk Management)
2) Right click - Create VHD
3) Name it and put it in your SkyDrive folder. (Using the new App)
4) Initialize it, and create Simple Volume, format NTFS
5) Open Bitlocker Drive Encryption - The new VHD will appear.
6) Click (Turn on Bitlocker) next to the drive - It will be under Bitlocker to Go

Done...


PS Just in case you are worried about 'security', Microsoft's encryption on SkyDrive is as 'extensive' and powerful as Bitlocker or TrueCrypt, and is not accessible by anyone but you. Go look up the encryption technologies in use on SkyDrive, 256bit media level encryption, and your 'token key' based on your GUID used to 'encrypt' the content in addition to encryption on top of that with Triple DES too.

So you already have a high level of encryption available just using SkyDrive as normal.

Throwing a Bitlocker VHD or Truecrypt drive on SkyDrive means that instead of 12 billion years to access your data that SkyDrive provides, it would take around 100 billion years to break into your data.

With regard to the article, and in contrast, it takes a Google employee 1 second to access and read your data.

i thought about something like this and then wondered, with all the accessing of files or even the VHD itself being mounted, will it sync?
i feel that you would have to unmount the VHD to get it to sync, since while it's mounted the "file" is locked for access.

what has been your experience with this "perceived limitation"? have you tried this solution yet?

"Two new cloud storage services were unveiled this week"

Um, SkyDrive's been around for ages. It's just never been as integrated with Windows as it is nowadays...

MASTER260 said,
"Two new cloud storage services were unveiled this week"

Um, SkyDrive's been around for ages. It's just never been as integrated with Windows as it is nowadays...


Yep, been around since August 2007.

I have to admit that to its detriment, the new Skydrive client makes me wonder whether I should continue using Live Mesh as a synchronizing system. I wish they'd merge the two programs (I know, I could as well set My Documents as my Skydrive folder) into something that offers remote file access, remote desktop, and the online backup aspect across all the Windows-based platforms.

Relativity_17 said,
I have to admit that to its detriment, the new Skydrive client makes me wonder whether I should continue using Live Mesh as a synchronizing system. I wish they'd merge the two programs (I know, I could as well set My Documents as my Skydrive folder) into something that offers remote file access, remote desktop, and the online backup aspect across all the Windows-based platforms.

You can just move 'My Documents' into your SkyDrive folder, and it Windows 7 will update the location seamlessly.

As for the Mesh issue... The only advantage to Mesh is that it can do PC to PC syncing, that doesn't store anything on SkyDrive, as long as the PCs are online at the same time. So with Live Mesh you could keep a 'ton' of files and folders synced far beyond the allocated space of SkyDrive.

The disadvantage to Mesh, for PC to SkyDrive syncing, it is locked to 5GB of space 'online', so you have far less room.

So for anything you want online, move to SkyDrive and let it keep it Synced. Anything you only do PC to PC, keep using Mesh, but be cautious as this feature will probably disappear in Windows 8.

Relativity_17 said,
I have to admit that to its detriment, the new Skydrive client makes me wonder whether I should continue using Live Mesh as a synchronizing system. I wish they'd merge the two programs (I know, I could as well set My Documents as my Skydrive folder) into something that offers remote file access, remote desktop, and the online backup aspect across all the Windows-based platforms.

mklink /J is your friend. ;-) I just created junctions to various folders under the main Skydrive folder and it synced.

BajiRav said,

mklink /J is your friend. ;-) I just created junctions to various folders under the main Skydrive folder and it synced.

do you mean that you "replaced" shell folders like Documents and Pictures with junctions to the SkyDrive versions, i.e. SkyDrive\Documents and SkyDrive\Pictures?

thenetavenger said,

You do realized that you have always had 25gb with SkyDrive, right?

I had 7Gigs, then a link on neowin that gave me a free upgrade to 25gigs, so no i didnt always have 25gigs space.

th3r3turn said,

I had 7Gigs, then a link on neowin that gave me a free upgrade to 25gigs, so no i didnt always have 25gigs space.


It was downgraded to 7Gb from 25Gb though. The link merely resets the limit to the old level for people who signed up before the new limit was set. On a side note, just got my 25Gb back

In addition to Google's own words, there is also how data is stored. Google leaves your data human readable/able to be queried by their employees, Microsoft does not.

The closest a Microsoft employee can get to your data is very small and strict set of machine queued scripts that perform non-information tasks. (Reset user password, lock account, etc.

This level of protection also includes 'public' folders you 'share' or provide a link to with Public access, as the GUID based URL is not able to be traversed by internal or external bots, nor queried directly even when made publicly accessible.

Which is a big thing when you have documents and a Google employee can literally issue a 'search' or SQL like query on your data at any time, and return a set of results that includes your documents that the Google employee can literally just open and read, even if they are 'private' and not publicly shared.

In terms of security, DropBox and Apple's iCloud are also far ahead of Google's storage (GDrive/GDocs/etc.) *iCloud is encrypted and like SkyDrive is only machine readable.


The other factor for users is the 'pricing' and features...

SkyDrive also has some a lot of features that don't get talked about when compared to DropBox and GDrive.

1) Server side integrated search. SkyDrive has Windows Search technology that runs server side, so you with a secure login can search millions of your documents and pictures and get instant results. (GDrive is supposed to have 'Google' search features as well for your content, but it is a secure search.)

2) SkyDrive has 'additional' free space. There are exceptions to what counts against your usage, that will again be increasing with Windows 8's release. Things like 'profile' and settings content do not count against your storage. (With Live Mesh you can even use PC to PC sharing that does not use SkyDrive storage, and pulls from 'on' PCs to sync data between computers instead of keeping the data on SkyDrive (which is why Mesh storage is not integrated into SkyDrive's folder structure.)

3) Authentication and encryption. Microsoft's login mechanism is based on the Passport/LiveID (now Microsoft account) technology. It is a very complex private/public key type of authentication and encryption technology. That has redundant encryption at the access level and the storage level. They use triple DES keying for the authentication that is layered with 'dual 256bit encryption' at the media layer. It is also 'time based', meaning that the key obtained by the client from the server expires rather quickly.

(Even taking away the user GUID 'key' and triple DES, breaking the media encryption on the Microsoft servers would take several billion years with the most advanced supercomputer for just one user's account.)

This is a couple of generations beyond what Google and DropBox offer, and also was a point of contention as reported even on Neowin last year when Google was trying to obtain government contracts. Google was claiming to have more advanced encryption and security for services than what they actually supported, as their 'authentication' and encryption didn't even meet the 'older' government requirements, let alone come close to the level of authentication and encryption Microsoft offers.

4) Integration. Although the 'native' clients for PCs and non WP7 phones wasn't 'directly'* available until recently, SkyDrive has been integrated to provide a 'sharing' mechanism for users for several years now. For example, getting a link to content to share like DropBox 'just' added this month, has been in SkyDrive since its beginning.
*SkyDrive has always supported WebDAV direct access, so 'seamless' Explorer/Finder integration was always available and I believe still is.

Since Windows Vista and even more in Windows 7, SkyDrive has been 'encouraged' to host attachments instead of sending them in a non-secure manner via email. Microsoft Hotmail and local clients like Windows Mail, Outlook, etc all offer 'SkyDrive' as the staging area for 'attachments' and photos instead of shoving a huge chunk of data into email. (The next time you send a document/photo etc from a Microsoft email client, notice it tries to get you to use SkyDrive instead of including the attachment content in the message if it a standard document/photo type.)

5) Size limits, a backup service. This use to be a problem with SkyDrive that started with 50mb and then 100mb file size restrictions. File Size restrictions are now 2gb, which is enough for a good quality HD movie rip and pretty much covers most content for users.

6) Seamless integration for Syncing/Roaming. Live Mesh users already found that they should share their local profile 'Users' folders via SkyDrive or PC to PC.

The new SkyDrive client also supports this functionality in an easier way, so you can literally 'move' your Desktop/Favorites/Pictures/Documents to the SkyDrive folder.

Windows 7 then automatically changes 'locations' for these folders at the Explorer level seamlessly. So you can literally have all your local content hosted on SkyDrive, that can then be 'Synced' to any PC you use in the future as you Choose.


...And since it is highly encrypted, you don't have to worry about a Google employee looking through your porn collection.

So wait...

When you upload your content to Google, you are giving them access to use your work however they see fit

this seems to be in direct conflict with the line in Google's Terms of Service:
The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.

I'll admit that Microsoft's Terms of Service seem to be a little better worded, but to me, they both seem like the same thing:

(from Microsoft's)

...to the extent necessary to provide the service.
could be interpreted in all kinds of ways. For instance, "Microsoft has chosen to use your files in promotional materials because it was necessary in order to provide the service."

Either way, it seems that if you want to keep something private, "the cloud" is not the best place to store it.

cyberdrone2000 said,
So wait...

this seems to be in direct conflict with the line in Google's Terms of Service:


I'll admit that Microsoft's Terms of Service seem to be a little better worded, but to me, they both seem like the same thing:

(from Microsoft's)
could be interpreted in all kinds of ways. For instance, "Microsoft has chosen to use your files in promotional materials because it was necessary in order to provide the service."

Either way, it seems that if you want to keep something private, "the cloud" is not the best place to store it.

Exactly what I was thinking. They make it broad, and Google spells it out.

cyberdrone2000 said,
So wait...

this seems to be in direct conflict with the line in Google's Terms of Service:


I'll admit that Microsoft's Terms of Service seem to be a little better worded, but to me, they both seem like the same thing:

(from Microsoft's)
could be interpreted in all kinds of ways. For instance, "Microsoft has chosen to use your files in promotional materials because it was necessary in order to provide the service."

Either way, it seems that if you want to keep something private, "the cloud" is not the best place to store it.

Pretty sure Microsoft couldn't claim that, I trust Microsoft with my data more than Google either way.

cyberdrone2000 said,
So wait...

this seems to be in direct conflict with the line in Google's Terms of Service:


I'll admit that Microsoft's Terms of Service seem to be a little better worded, but to me, they both seem like the same thing:

(from Microsoft's)
could be interpreted in all kinds of ways. For instance, "Microsoft has chosen to use your files in promotional materials because it was necessary in order to provide the service."

Either way, it seems that if you want to keep something private, "the cloud" is not the best place to store it.

Um... Even the Google 'Terms' you posted are a part of a document that specifically gives Google the right to use the 'content' in any way they want, including sharing it with their partners.

How you can spin this that they cannot use it is a logical disconnect.

When you see an Ad on TV from Google, using YouTube videos and Pictures and Documents, it comes from people's accounts, and they are not asked for permission to use them, because Google specifically states they can use it.

Now taken to an extreme, upload pictures of you and your spouse naked, and Google could in theory post it on any of their sites or sell/share it to any of their partners.

Microsoft specifically says they cannot.

So in this extreme example, you could sue Microsoft, but not Google for sharing your naked photos.

thenetavenger said,

Um... Even the Google 'Terms' you posted are a part of a document that specifically gives Google the right to use the 'content' in any way they want, including sharing it with their partners.

How you can spin this that they cannot use it is a logical disconnect.

When you see an Ad on TV from Google, using YouTube videos and Pictures and Documents, it comes from people's accounts, and they are not asked for permission to use them, because Google specifically states they can use it.

Now taken to an extreme, upload pictures of you and your spouse naked, and Google could in theory post it on any of their sites or sell/share it to any of their partners.

Microsoft specifically says they cannot.

So in this extreme example, you could sue Microsoft, but not Google for sharing your naked photos.

i agree. from what i understood from Microsoft's is that they are saying they will only access your content so that they can display it for you, i.e. when you click on one of your photos in the web interface.

duddit2 said,
Skydrive = more space, more features, more secure, more private, more established. ummmmmm

I'd pick Google.

Costs more that SkyDrive, has less space than SkyDrive, cares less about your privacy than SkyDrive. Hmm, yeah, where do I sign up!

This is a great article, exactly what people should look at before using a service like this.

Great write up Brad, looks like I shall continue using SkyDrive .

flexkeyboard said,
Never let one corporation have too much control over your personal data. People should diversity their online data services.

While it may sound good, there are limits to this.

This would be like saying you should diversify your investments, and giving $50,000 to the con artist broker in jail that admitted to breaking into your home and stealing your financial information.

flexkeyboard said,
Never let one corporation have too much control over your personal data. People should diversity their online data services.

no corporation should ever have any control over ones personal data

flexkeyboard said,
Never let one corporation have too much control over your personal data. People should diversity their online data services.

Thats why I have a fake google account with my name but all false information... just to keep them on their toes.. jk

flexkeyboard said,
Never let one corporation have too much control over your personal data. People should diversity their online data services.

I'm not sure what is better. One company knowing a lot about me, or several companies knowing a little about me.

Been using skydrive for years now, and got my free 25gb locked in. Their new app just streamlines everything. Google is a bit late to the party

gregalto said,
...and skydrive it is for me

I'll stick with SkyDrive too. Will definitely not be uploading anything to Google Drive unless my intent is for everyone to see it or use it.