Google Copies Your Hard Drive - Government Smiles in Anticipation

http://www.eff.org/news/archives/2006_02.php#004400

Consumers Should Not Use New Google Desktop

San Francisco - Google today announced a new “feature” of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new “Search Across Computers” feature will store copies of the user’s Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google’s own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user’s computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who’ve obtained a user’s Google password.

“Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google’s search logs, it’s shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “If you use the Search Across Computers feature and don’t configure Google Desktop very carefully—and most people won’t—Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn’t even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants—your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whoever—could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files.”

The privacy problem arises because the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, or ECPA, gives only limited privacy protection to emails and other files that are stored with online service providers—much less privacy than the legal protections for the same information when it’s on your computer at home. And even that lower level of legal protection could disappear if Google uses your data for marketing purposes. Google says it is not yet scanning the files it copies from your hard drive in order to serve targeted advertising, but it hasn’t ruled out the possibility, and Google’s current privacy policy appears to allow it.

“This Google product highlights a key privacy problem in the digital age,” said Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Legal Director. “Many Internet innovations involve storing personal files on a service provider’s computer, but under outdated laws, consumers who want to use these new technologies have to surrender their privacy rights. If Google wants consumers to trust it to store copies of personal computer files, emails, search histories and chat logs, and still ‘not be evil,’ it should stand with EFF and demand that Congress update the privacy laws to better reflect life in the wired world.”

I hope no one here is ignant enough to do use this… but I’m sure the usual suspects will explain that it’s all so convenient! and you can trust Google! and you can trust the govt! Now back to my tinfoil work…

I hope no one here is ignant enough to do use this

… without first encrypting their files.

Good idea for porn collectors! The wife will never think to look on the Google servers. :)

I dont see the problem in allowing a company, known to bend over backwards to assist government bodies across the world control what their populations can do and see on the internet, to index and keep a copy your files on their servers.

The feature is off by default.
The feature must be turned on after the program is installed.
Turning it on brings up a big pop up window directly explaining what it is doing.
You can configure Desktop search to selectively not index different folders.

I have little pity for those who randomly click options in preferences and don’t read the consequences.

I google you trust. It’s a false gawd!