So you want to use Dropbox because it’s extremely handy but have concerns about it’s privacy and security practices? Good, because you should.
It’s true that Dropbox and its competitors (Cubby, Microsoft SkyDrive, Google Drive, etc) do a decent job of keeping your data safe from hackers, but that does not mean it’s private. These companies retain the ability to decrypt and view everything you upload. You can never assume anything you upload is private. But you can make it that way.
Encrypt Your Files Before Putting Them in Dropbox
If you encrypt your files before you plunk them into the Dropbox folder, they get uploaded that way. So even if Dropbox looks at your files, they’ll only see the encrypted versions and will have no way of seeing what’s actually in them. This is called Pre-Internet Encryption (PIE). That means that before the files ever leave your computer, they’re encrypted so that only those with the key can open them.
The Cons of Pre-Internet Encryption
Making your data safe usually means suffering some inconveniences. That is the case here, as well. Whatever program you use to encrypt your files (like AxCrypt) will have to be installed on every computer on which you use Dropbox or else you won’t be able to decrypt and view your files. Unfortunately, this also means you won’t be able to access your Dropbox files on your smartphone. At least until one of these encryption program’s vendors make a mobile version of their app.
However, I firmly believe that these nuisances are worth the trouble. It’s never wise to just assume your data is safe online. Any data that leaves your computer for the internet should be immediately considered out of your control. Give yourself some peace of mind by at least assuring whoever ends up with your data won’t be able to see it.