In late 2020, Apple launched its Privacy Label initiative. Now, all apps sold through the App Store need to include a privacy label with future updates. These labels inform consumers about how the application collects and uses consumer data. Since millions of people use file-sharing and cloud storage platforms to transfer and store their personal content, we believed it’d be interesting to compare the privacy labels of the Big Tech offerings to AXEL Go.
A primer on terminology
Before getting into the comparison, it’s important to define the terms you’ll see often. Apple separated the data the apps collect into three different categories.
Data Used to Track You. This is the most troublesome category. It means that the app tracks personal information explicitly to form a coherent picture of your identity. This could stretch across your entire internet usage or even into your real-life shopping habits. It’s a tactic Facebook notoriously employs, and it’s by far the most invasive type of data collection.
Companies engaged in these activities link data generated from the app with information from third parties for targeted advertising or analytics. These organizations potentially even share their data sets (including your exact location) with shady data brokers. If possible, we recommend ditching apps that track you like this.
Data Linked to You. This includes much of the same types of data as the previous category, except it is not tracked across your full web experience. It’s still linked to your identity, however, and is still sold to third parties regularly. Avoid it when you can.
Data Not Linked to You. This is data that the company has explicitly anonymized. It could mean removing direct identifiers like user ID/Name/Device ID and data manipulation to prevent re-linkage or de-anonymization. To claim this, you must not ‘fingerprint’ or use other data sets to establish a potential identity.
Now, onto the comparison.
DropBox comes out the worst in this comparison. It’s the only one with entries in the ‘Data Used to Track You’ category, making it a significant threat to the privacies of over 600 million users worldwide. It also collects a vast amount of data, including:
- Contact Info (Name, email address, phone number, physical address, etc.)
- Identifiers (Screen name, handle, account ID, etc.)
- Purchases (Purchase history)
- Contacts (List of your phone’s contacts, address books, social graphs, etc.)
- Search History (information regarding searches you made in-app)
- Usage Data (App launch info, taps, scrolling data, clicks, views, biometric eye data, etc.)
- User Content (in this case, content stored on DropBox servers)
- Diagnostics (crash logs, performance metrics, etc.)
Obviously, some of this data is more sensitive than other types. For instance, diagnostic information is potentially less harmful than giving up the contents of your cloud storage to what amounts to corporate surveillance. Regardless, it’s all info that they can link to you for identification purposes.
Google isn’t known for its commitment to privacy. Although its cloud service, Google Drive, fares a bit better than Dropbox, there’s still not much to like. It collects the same types of data and adds “Location” into the mix. Why would a cloud storage application need to know your location? Unknown, but it likely isn’t a valid reason. It’s unspecified whether they monitor your ‘Precise Location’ or ‘Coarse Location,’ but Google doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. Assume they know exactly where you are at all times when you’re using any of their services, including Drive. They also collect the nebulously-termed “Other” data, which Apple doesn’t define. If you’re one of the over one billion users of Drive, consider alternatives.
Of the Big Tech offerings, Microsoft’s OneDrive is the least offensive. It collects the least amount of data and doesn’t track you across websites. However, the personal information it does collect is still sensitive—especially Contact Info, Identifiers, and User Content. So, Microsoft not only collects your personally identifying information but, like its major competitors, it still mines user content. It’s an inexcusable invasion of privacy that anyone who cares about such matters can’t look past.
The Silicon Valley mainstays don’t value your privacy. At the end of the day, they make a lot of money from your data alone. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any good options. Privacy-based alternatives like AXEL Go exist.
Our team designed the entire platform to promote privacy, security, and data custody. And that starts with the fact that AXEL doesn’t collect any data linked to its users. In fact, AXEL is the only competitor in this comparison that doesn’t link data to your identity. Most of the information we manage is diagnostic, and usage data, which helps our developers see how you’re using the app to inform future improvements. Any contact info we store is sufficiently anonymized so that nobody can link it back to you. We respect everyone’s right to privacy.
Try AXEL Go
If you’re used to sharing and storing data online with platforms such as Google Drive or Dropbox, AXEL Go is a breath of fresh air. Our simple, intuitive user interface is a breeze to navigate while still offering industry-leading security and privacy features.
The platform is backed by secure technology like the InterPlanetary File System, blockchain, and military-grade encryption. Together with the fact that only AXEL emphasizes users take control of their personal information, you’ve got an application that stands above the competition. Try it out today and see the AXEL difference. Basic accounts are free, and you can upgrade to a Premium account with all features for only $9.99/month. Help usher in a better internet. Join the AXEL Revolution.
 Nick Statt. “Apple launches new App Store privacy labels so you can see how iOS apps use your data”, The Verge, Dec. 14, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/12/14/22174017/apple-app-store-new-privacy-labels-ios-apps-public
 Aaron Holmes, “Facebook knows what you’re doing on other sites and in real life. This tool lets you see what it knows about you.”, Business Insider, Mar. 17, 2020, https://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-clear-history-offline-activity-tracker-tool-how-to-use-2020-1
 Shoshana Wodinsky, “Google Drive is about to hit 1 billion users”, The Verge, Jul. 25, 2018, https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/25/17613442/google-drive-one-billion-users