Google Desktop 3 was released yesterday and everyone is freaking out. An overall excellent program has a couple new tweaks in its interface in the new release. But the big news is the Search Across Computers feature. If you enable this (and it has to be manually enabled) copies of your personal files (web history, Microsoft Office documents, and PDFs and text files from your My Documents folder) will be stored on Google’s servers.
Now I don’t have much of a problem with Google (or even the federal government, for that matter) knowing what I search for. I try to live a good, decent life on and off my computer, so my search history doesn’t have anything to hide. However, giving Google access to my personal files so that they can do who knows what with, is a little bit too far.
The idea is great: the ability to access my files no matter what computer I am using. But something about it rubs me the wrong way. The Electronic Frontier Foundation thinks so too.
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. “Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, 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.”
EFF: Breaking News
That’s a little too scary for now. I’m going to keep my little box unchecked.