Adding Condoleezza Rice To Dropbox's Board Seems Incredibly Tone Deaf Following NSA Concerns

from the it's-a-competitve-market dept

Dropbox is probably the most well-known of the cloud storage providers out there, and it’s angling for an IPO. As such, it recently made some changes in its management, including a bit of news that is getting a fair bit of attention: adding Condoleezza Rice to its board. Rice’s consulting firm has apparently been advising the company for the past year, and the announcement says that the former Secretary of State will help Dropbox navigate “international expansion and privacy” issues. While she’s certainly qualified to help with international issues, it’s the privacy issues that are raising significant concern among many.

“As a country, we are having a great national conversation and debate about exactly how to manage privacy concerns,” Rice says about her new position. “I look forward to helping Dropbox navigate it.”

Except, of course, a big part of that “great national conversation” are revelations that involve warrantless spying — and Rice was a big part of enabling that warrantless spying. When she was Secretary of State, she defended the warrantless wiretapping program by saying:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended Bush’s actions, telling “Fox News Sunday” the president had authorized the National Security Agency “to collect information on a limited number of people with connections to al Qaeda.”

Except, as we’ve learned from various leaks since then, the definitions that were used of “limited” and “connections to al Qaeda” in the sentence above are not the same definitions most English speakers would use. The program was not very limited and the necessary connections were barely present. Besides, to this day, no one has given a reasonable explanation for why a warrant shouldn’t be used in such situations anyway. If there really are a limited number of people they want info on who have connections to al Qaeda, getting a warrant should be easy enough.

Furthermore, Rice also authorized the NSA to spy on the UN Security Council to find out what they were thinking about the US going to war in Iraq back in 2003.

President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.

Two former NSA officials familiar with the agency’s campaign to spy on U.N. members say then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice authorized the plan at the request of President Bush, who wanted to know how delegates were going to vote. Rice did not immediately return a call for comment.

As for Dropbox, there have certainly been quite a few concerns about how private your data is on the site. When the first slides about PRISM came out, it was noted that Dropbox was about to become a part of the program. And while the fears about PRISM are greatly overstated, Dropbox has been fighting against public perception over this for some time. Dropbox’s CEO, Drew Houston, spoke out against the NSA’s efforts at the State of the Net conference back in January, and the company recently changed its privacy policies to address concerns about NSA spying. The company has also taken a strong stand saying that it will protect users’ data against blanket government requests and backdoors.

Those were all good moves, that should have calmed many people’s fears — but to then appoint Rice to the board, and have her handling “privacy” issues basically blasts a major hole in that. I’m less inclined than some to simply assume this means bad things for Dropbox’s privacy efforts in general. But from a public perception standpoint, this move does come across as exceptionally tone deaf by Dropbox. People are already raising concerns, and a basic Twitter search shows a bunch of people both raising concerns and looking for alternatives to Dropbox. And, of course, someone has already set up an entire website about why people should drop Dropbox over this move.

At a time when people around the globe are increasingly worried about American tech firms having too close a connection to the intelligence community, a move like this seems like a huge public relations disaster. While Rice may be perfectly qualified to hold the role and to help Dropbox with the issues it needs help with, it’s hard not to believe that there would be others with less baggage who could handle the job just as well.

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Comments on “Adding Condoleezza Rice To Dropbox's Board Seems Incredibly Tone Deaf Following NSA Concerns”

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83 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This news locked it up for me

For limited distribution of files, run your own server. For private use, rely on SSH, and create and copy a ‘public key’ onto your own devices. The only times high capacity file server is needed is for publication, at which point the data should not need protection.
Hint, if a Raspberry Pi does not suffice as the server, you need cloud services.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: This news locked it up for me

Agreed, except for this part: ” if a Raspberry Pi does not suffice as the server, you need cloud services.”

That’s an odd metric. Why is Raspberry Pi the threshold?

I would argue that you almost never need (and should strenuously avoid) third party cloud services. The primary exception is, as you state, if you’re distributing something to a lot of people.

If you want the convenience of cloud, it’s pretty trivial to run your own cloud server nowadays.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: This news locked it up for me

A Raspberry Pi is quite capable of soaking up domestic connection bandwidth, and if its capacity for bandwidth is reached most people would have an unhappy ISP. Besides it is an affordable low power machine. To support more users than a Pi can handle really does requires system administration time and skills, like log reviews.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: This news locked it up for me

I use and old AMD64 4200+ Dual Core on an Asus a8n sli deluxe motherboard (my ex killer PC that I bought back in 2005 so it would last me 10 years, did 8, for a mail server and sftp server. And I also rent a vps (32 dollars a month) for 500gb of space and 30mbps/30mbps speed which is useful in so many ways I can’t even describe it all in 2 minutes of a post.

But yeah, i’m a power user, the other options I posted in another post are good alternatives to casual things like dropbox.

Chris ODonnell (profile) says:

People seem to forget she was doing her job when she went on the Sunday talk shows and defended warrentless searches and spying. It doesn’t make it right, but unfortunately that is how our system operates. If she didn’t do that she would been forced to resign to “spend more time with her family” the following Monday.

She may be a bad idea on the Board for a lot of reasons, but for doing her job in the Bush Administration? I don’t think that really tells us much about how she will advise on privacy issues as a board member. That said, she is basically a statist, so I’d expect the status quo. Dropbox would be the company to make a stand for user privacy.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

People seem to forget she was doing her job when she went on the Sunday talk shows and defended warrentless searches and spying. It doesn’t make it right, but unfortunately that is how our system operates. If she didn’t do that she would been forced to resign to “spend more time with her family” the following Monday.

She may be a bad idea on the Board for a lot of reasons, but for doing her job in the Bush Administration? I don’t think that really tells us much about how she will advise on privacy issues as a board member. That said, she is basically a statist, so I’d expect the status quo. Dropbox would be the company to make a stand for user privacy.

I tried to be clear in the post that my issue is less with what her actual opinions are or for what she’ll actually do, but for the public perception aspect of it, given the widespread existing concerns about Dropbox.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

People seem to forget she was doing her job when she went on the Sunday talk shows and defended warrentless searches and spying.

Politicians doing just that are why states become totalitarian, they are giving in to the bully in charge. It is what people who prefer power over people, rather than representing them and standing up for the their rights do.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

…and another authoritarian is outed, thanks sparky…

while working in the gummint, she had a DUTY ABOVE ALL ELSE: to obey and honor the constitution, she did not…

it is not arguable, it is TRUE, that virtually EVERY administration has shat on the constitution for their own convenience; but the kongresskritters and (in)justice department have rolled over on ALL THAT SHIT, such that we HAVE NO ‘CHECKS AND BALANCES’ any longer, only one like-minded korporate-centric entity which ignores the constitution/law whenever it wishes, and makes up shit the rest of the time…

but, i’m sure big daddy will look after you, just do WHATEVER he says; don’t make big daddy mad ! ! !

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“People seem to forget she was doing her job when she went on the Sunday talk shows and defended warrentless searches and spying”

Either she was a part of that decision, or she was happy to go and defend the indefensible just because someone told her she had to as part of her job.

Sorry, not a great deal of difference in my mind. That defence didn’t work in Nuremberg and it doesn’t hold here.

fjpoblam (profile) says:

Re: I just read the headline to a co-worker

?Yeah, that’s another cloud service I won?t be using.?

Yep, so there: I unlinked a bunch of apps and pulled Dropbox off my various devices? With the full understanding that, if I expect to drop every service that hires a somehow unsavory character, I?ll soon not be using the web. Or communicating via known civilized paths in general.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I just read the headline to a co-worker

Hardly. We had a perfectly fine Internet long before these people showed up, and while their services are trendy, flashy, popular, and hyped like crazy, they’re really not necessary. It’s quite easy to using DNS RPZ and firewall rulesets to make a lot of them disappear from one’s view of the Internet. For example: I don’t see China, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Korea, Vietnam, .info (with a handful of exceptions), Dropbox, Myspace, Flickr, Pinterest, .biz (with a handful of exceptions), .xxx, Eventbrite, Multiply, Scour, Instagram, Zoosk, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, .mobi, .eu or all kinds of other network allocations, TLDs, domains or operations.

Not only does this avoid dealing with a great many unsavory people and operations, but it has enormous security and privacy value: I can’t be attacked from any Bolivian network, for example, because they can’t even reach me. Same for Facebook — they’re in the firewall too. Bidirectionally, of course.

So let’s not lament the loss of an operation or two: most of them are new anyway, few of them will last, they’re transient and unimportant. Like Dropbox.

Anonymous Coward says:

I don’t get it. If you didn’t drop Dropbox after their PRISM affiliation, why would this be any worse? Is our human cognition still so biased that a face prompts a stronger reaction than a faceless organization?

I guess that would explain why people still don’t seem to care about being invisibly surveilled.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Is our human cognition still so biased that a face prompts a stronger reaction than a faceless organization?”

Yes, and it will be for as long as we are human.

I was already recommending against dropbox, but choosing her to be on the board elevates them in my mind from a passive go-along-with-the-status-quo kind of company to an active we-don’t-care-about-our-users kind of company. One is bad, the other is worse.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re: Re:

Craig, stop perpetuating the left/right red/blue dichotomy. Other options exist. All you’re achieving here is to keep things as they are by increasing the divisions that stop us from working together.

The day we stop the “You must be a liberal socialist!” nonsense, they will fear us. Can we stop it now, please?

Anonymous Coward says:

Dropbox is only used by the naive and stupid

Everyone who’s been paying attention knows better.

For example:

http://it.slashdot.org/story/11/04/08/1838220/Dropbox-Authentication-Insecure-By-Design
and
http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2011/Apr-19.html
and
http://paranoia.dubfire.net/2011/04/how-dropbox-sacrifices-user-privacy-for.html
and
http://www.boingboing.net/2011/04/21/dropboxs-new-securit.html
and
http://www.boingboing.net/2011/04/26/dropbox-asks-file-sh.html
and
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110425/15541514030/dropbox-tries-to-kill-off-open-source-project-with-dmca-takedown.shtml
and
http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/05/15/2157202/Dropbox-Accused-of-Lying-About-Security

michael (profile) says:

Re: Dropbox is only used by the naive and stupid

I use Dropbox because my data isn’t private, so I don’t care who else sees it. The stuff I have there is innocuous, and only there because it makes a convenient place to temporarily store files I might want to move from 1 device to another.

My private data never goes on a server. Not as convenient, but much more secure.

Am I naive or stupid?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Dropbox is only used by the naive and stupid

“Am I naive or stupid?”

Neither. You’ve thought seriously about the risks and benefits and have made an intelligent decision about what works best for you. I applaud you, sir.

What people shouldn’t do is use cloud services without thought, as if they were just an extension of their private machines.

Rocco Maglio (profile) says:

Careful of the precedent

So you are saying you don’t want her on the board, because she supported warrentless surveillance, so you will make the same argument and protest against anyone from the Obama administration when they try to get on boards of tech companies. I am sick of people claiming that they are upset about an issue when they are really just upset that the person was on the wrong team. I was involved in several groups that supported Net neutrality and when Obama was elected the groups disbanded. We still don’t have net neutrality.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Careful of the precedent

Actually, yeah. Everyone who is or was part of the Obama administration should be banned from the tech sector for the rest of their lives as far as I’m concerned. They’ve all spent years actively trying to screw over everyone with a computer. They all willingly went along with the plans to undermine internet security. None of them have resigned in the face of the nonstop NSA revelations. They apparently have no issue with the NSA concealing widespread vulnerabilities like Heartbleed from sysadmins so that they can peep on their ex-girlfriends, security consequences from those foreign hackers (you know, the ones they keep grandstanding about to justify everything they do) be damned.
That pariah status you’re complaining about is 100% deserved.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Careful of the precedent

“so you will make the same argument and protest against anyone from the Obama administration”

Why would you think we wouldn’t?

Although I would refine this somewhat. I’ll make the same protest against anyone in the Obama administration who had anything to do with, or spoke in support or defense of, the policies and actions of the Obama administration that I believe are egregious. That’s not the entirety of the administration. It’s also the exact standard I use about the Bush administration and every administration that came before.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Careful of the precedent

So you are saying you don’t want her on the board

No. I didn’t say that. I said that it’s a bad PR move, and I don’t understand why Dropbox would do it.

because she supported warrentless surveillance, so you will make the same argument and protest against anyone from the Obama administration when they try to get on boards of tech companies

Yes, easily. If they were integral to promoting the surveillance state (or bad IP law, or other issues of concern to me).

I am sick of people claiming that they are upset about an issue when they are really just upset that the person was on the wrong team.

I’m curious as to which “team” you think I support? We have never supported any particular team at all. We have regularly called out people on both “teams” when they do something stupid, just as we’ve celebrated those on both “teams” when they’ve done good things.

I’m not on any team and this site has never supported any of the major political parties. In fact, we specifically do not name what party anyone is a part of (unless it’s central to the story) because doing so immediately leads to idiots making it into a partisan thing.

So, seriously: which team am I on? If you’d like I’m happy to show you where we’ve criticized both Democrats and Republicans as well as celebrated both Democrats and Republicans.

This has nothing to do with teams.

I was involved in several groups that supported Net neutrality and when Obama was elected the groups disbanded. We still don’t have net neutrality.

Out of curiosity, could you point out what net neutrality groups have disbanded? I’d love to hear about that.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Careful of the precedent

“I am sick of people claiming that they are upset about an issue when they are really just upset that the person was on the wrong team.”

…and I’m sick of morons attacking what they assume are the opinions of others rather than learning their actual positions. But those strawmen are just so much easier to attack than reality, right?

zip says:

This makes about as much sense as the appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as president of the World Bank, or of John Yoo as law professor at Berkeley University, that bastion of human rights.

Why is it that so many disgraced government officials keep popping up over and over in places where they are unqualified and/or unwelcome? At least Ukraine was on the right track, not afraid to throw that country’s criminal leaders in prison.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Right vs Left has nothing to do with it

Anyone trying to claim these accusations are from the “leftists” or just saying to look at the current administration is completely missing the point. I am pretty sure the whole right vs left thing is merely a distraction at this point. Both parties appear to be acting in the interests of those with power now, to ensure they maintain power and keep that money rolling in. They may not work for the exact same groups, but in both cases they are selling out America.

Really, do you guys saying this is brought up by the left not remember Bush? Do the people saying it was because of Bush not pay attention now? The democrats and republicans are the same in this. Neither values the constitution so stop helping them misdirect people by bringing up arguments about “right vs left” please. This is about what America is supposed to stand for and how all of the asshats are running it these days from “both sides of the aisle”.

zip says:

Re: Right vs Left has nothing to do with it

Both parties do an effective job exploiting so-called “wedge” issues in order to gain strong support from one half the population, making people believe that they could really care one way or the other on these purely emotional subjects.

But on all the really important issues (like trillion-dollar bank bailouts or feeding the security/military-industrial complex) they act as one unified party – regardless of what they might claim.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Re: Right vs Left has nothing to do with it

I am glad to see others posting that they recognize much the same thing. Sometimes it feels like almost everyone else out there is focused on the whole “but These guys are so much better than Those guys!” type aspect, and for what seems to me like small things compared to everything else they are really up to. Yes, some of the issues are important, but on the whole, both options are pretty sour.

Screw you says:

Apple's dubios board.

Where was the indignation at Al Gore being on the Apple BOD? Clinton used warrent-less wiretapping.

http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/eo/eo-12949.htm

President Clinton clearly explained in his order, “Pursuant to section 302(a)(1) of the (FISA) Act, the Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information … .”

Justice Department memos released on April 28, 2004, and written up in the next day?s Washington Times: “Newly released Justice Department memos show that Sept. 11 panel commissioner Jamie S. Gorelick was more intimately involved than previously thought with hampering communications between U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies fighting terrorism.

“As the No. 2 person in the Clinton Justice Department, Ms. Gorelick rejected advice from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who warned against placing more limits on communications between law-enforcement officials and prosecutors pursuing counterterrorism cases, according to several internal documents written in summer 1995.”

Gorelick?s efforts to hamper communications — constructing “the wall” between intelligence and law enforcement — are blamed by some for the U.S. failure to spot the 9-11 plot before it happened. The USA Patriot Act tore down these restrictions — yet even the ultra-restrictive Gorelick recognized Presidential authority to conduct warrantless “searches for foreign intelligence purposes”.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/apr/29/20040429-122228-6538r/

Left wing hypocrisy is overwhelming.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Apple's dubios board.

What does the left wing have to do with it? Can’t we just top with this partisan bullshit already?

For my part, it was hard to get all up in arms about Gore being on the Apple board because I already considered Apple to be an awful, immoral, highly objectionable company. There’s no room for downward motion there.

I did not have such an estimation of Dropbox. I considered them sketchy, but nowhere near Apple’s level of malevolence. So there’s a lot of room for downward motion there.

Iw says:

In case you missed it, all the big companies assist the govt. When asked. Best thing to do is not have or do anything illegal. How hard is that? For most people, that will do. If you have propietary info, then it doesn’t go in the cloud, right? If it’s just personal or private information, then it doesn’t go on the cloud either. Sure dropbox will sniff your packet and turn you in if you’re engaged in something illegal. I don’t think they ever said they wouldn’t. So don’t do that.

What we don’t want is the govt. framing political targets ala MLK and Hoover or ruining people or companies for politcal or economic reasons they can vaguely relate to ‘national security’… favoring one company by stealing another company’s IP, ruining a competitor of a favored company.. generally interfering with civil society…they DO have an legit interest in defending against terrorism in this country and a first line of defense are the commercial providers of services who , yes, will give you up if you mean harm. What did you want them to do?

RLS says:

Geeks suck

LOL! Look at the geeks panic! What a pack of shitheads.

Hey, morons, she’s not working for the government anymore. You know how a company might turn to an ex-hacker or ex-thief to consult on security?

The NSA doesn’t care about you or your furry hentai fetish. This “crisis” is the funniest thing to ever happen. A sea of filthy geeks cowering in their basements thinkng Big Brother is after them. Meanwhile no one gives a particle of rat shit about any of them or their massive personality disorders.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Geeks suck

I’ll never understand the mindset that leads someone to post 3 paragraphs of saying nothing other than “look at how stupid I am!”.

You actually had one reasonable point to make:

“You know how a company might turn to an ex-hacker or ex-thief to consult on security?”

That’s worth of discussion. But, you decided to wrap it in text that makes it look like a 9 year old football player wanted to get over the inferiority complex he gets every time he steps into a classroom.

Don’t worry, once you get over puberty you’ll learn how to communicate with adults and the nerds won’t make you feel so impotent.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Geeks suck

“she’s not working for the government anymore”

And I’m thankful for that. But it’s not relevant to the problem. The problem is that she has demonstrated that she is in favor of spying, wiretaps without a warrant, etc., and she has been placed on the board of a company for whom these issues are very relevant.

If she had been placed on the board of, say Exxon, nobody would have cared.

“You know how a company might turn to an ex-hacker or ex-thief to consult on security?”

Yes, but how many times do these companies put such people into positions of power, such as sitting on the board?

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