OK, Leo. How safe is iCloud? I have a feeling that privacy is a thing of the past. How do I know that nobody’s looking at my stuff?
This question is bigger than just iCloud. How safe is any online service, to be honest?
Ultimately, with any service provider, you simply don’t know that your data isn’t being looked at unless you take steps to protect it.
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Who’s behind it?
So the first thing I would have you do, of course, is consider the source.
iCloud is a service of Apple. So we have to begin by asking: “Do you trust Apple?” I would ask the same question if you’re using any provider, be it Google, Apple, Yahoo, Dropbox, Microsoft or any of the services that are out there that give you online storage, or deal with your information in some way. If you don’t trust the company, well, then you probably don’t want to be putting your data on their servers.
Now if you have to put data online, or if you’re just not really sure whether you trust a service or not, encryption’s really the only approach that you can use to keep your data secure; and what that means is encryption that you perform before you hand over your data.
Encryption’s a start
Tools like Boxcryptor are good for this, particularly with services like Dropbox. Tools like AxCrypt and TrueCrypt are also commonly used to encrypt files before they get uploaded to shared or online services.
But once again, you’re still trusting somebody; you’re trusting the makers of those tools like Boxcryptor or AxCrypt or TrueCrypt to a) be aboveboard and b) do encryption right.
Unfortunately, some services just aren’t set up to allow you to encrypt your own data. Examples could include your email contact list or your calendar that you might place in iCloud.
The very functionality that those online storage services provide requires that they have access to the data so that they can manipulate it and show it to you. Is anyone looking? Well, probably not. But I can’t prove it.
Is anyone actually looking?
Could someone look? Well, probably. Hopefully, only those people that have a legal reason to do so would.
I do think that the statement “privacy is a thing of the past” is a bit of a hyperbole. Certainly, things are changing rapidly. I’m not going to argue with that. Privacy is being impacted in many different ways from many different directions as technology expands.
And yes, I’ll even say that the concept of privacy, and where its boundaries might be, is in flux. Certainly, people are knowingly and unknowingly giving up more information about themselves than they realize. But more important than anything is being aware: asking the right questions like the questions you’re asking here.
Decide who to trust and then make your decisions accordingly.