Over the weekend, Dropbox updated its terms of service so that customers outside of North America are now provided via Dropbox Ireland, rather than Dropbox USA. What’s going on?
Whenever you hear “Ireland” in a tech context the immediate reaction tends to be “tax minimisation”. I can’t swear that isn’t also a factor here, but the most obvious change between the old terms of service and the new ones is that non-US customers are no longer obliged to use the American Arbitration Association to resolve any commercial disputes about use of the service. Under the old terms, the AAA was the only forum of dispute resolution for all parties.
The new terms will apply to all non-US customers from June 1 this year. Anyone who signs up after May 1 or upgrades to Dropbox Pro during that month will also move to the new terms immediately.
The practical difference this makes is likely to be minimal. Dropox’s help centre article on the change points out that the actual services being delivered aren’t changing. Dropbox utilises Amazon Web Services for its storage, and doesn’t let you choose where the data is stored, so you still have no idea whether it’s in a US data centre, an Irish one or even an Australian one. The smart money is on the US because that’s the cheapest for AWS storage, but we can’t know for sure.
Dropbox’s terms are still made under Californian law, so if you’re concerned about that giving US spooks access to your data, nothing has changed. Dropbox only allows non-US governments to access data if they receive a US court order first, and its last transparency report revealed that the Australian government had made just one request for local user data.