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Why Dropbox Wants My Location Data

April 2012

[Dropbox][1] is a great service. The 2GB of free storage that's shared seamlessly across computers, phones and iPads is incredibly useful.

Their tagline "Never email yourself a file again!" nails it. The ability to easily send files back and forth to myself and other people is a huge time saver. Best of all, Dropbox is one of those rare services that just plain works.

No need to constantly struggle to get it to do its job.

For all it's pluses, I hit on something that seemed out of character. While trying to upload an image to Dropbox via the iPad app, it asked to use my Location Data.

This request didn't make sense to me. Why should Dropbox need to know my location in order to upload a photo? Where I am during an upload is completely irrelevant to the process.

The little privacy paranoia warning bells go off in my head when I can't think of an obvious reason for a request like this.

The map application wants to know where I am for driving directions?

Sure. Makes complete sense.

Location needed for uploading a photo?

I couldn't come up with any need for that. At least, not until I hit the little arrow after the "Go to the Settings app..." text.

That little arrow brings up a statement that Dropbox doesn't use the Location Data. Apple requires the feature to be turned on to upload multiple photos. That seemed weird to me at first. After trying to puzzle it out, I can see where it makes sense. Every image shot with Location Data turned on for the camera app will have the coordinates where it was taken embedded. By requiring Location Data to be turned on for apps that want to send photos (and by extension the embedded location data) off the device, Apple gives some alert that you're letting it out of your control.

I originally thought that the Dropbox Location Data request was another little step in the erosion of privacy. Now, I think it's actually the opposite. A little backstop provided by Apple to allow us to keep a modicum of control if we want it. With Dropbox, worrying about Location Data privacy is a little amusing. Since they can view every file I've sent to them, whether or not they see location data a minor point. I wish Dropbox setup their encryption so they couldn't view my files, but the service is so useful that I'm willing to cede that privacy and just hope they keep it secure.

Incidentally, if you don't have Dropbox and want to give it a spin, you can [use this referral link][2] to sign up. We'll each get an extra 500MB of storage space.


[2]: http://db.tt/ahEXfMgU

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