Computer Security, Technology

Google Desktop 3 – time to worry

Google have today released version 3 of their excellent search tool – and it contains a feature that I am worried about, both personally, and as an employee of a large IT company.

Now the feature that has me worried is this one

Search Across Computers makes the following files searchable from your other computers:

* Web history (from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla)
* Microsoft Word documents
* Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
* Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
* PDF files and Text files in My Documents

So a copy of my documents is going to be stored somewhere I can access from anywhere I can log onto Desktop search – so that’ll be some big server at Google then.

Now stop and think for a second – how many Word documents do you have that are personal letters, maybe letters you’ve written to your bank, your solicitor/lawyer/attorney, your MP. Would you want Google having access to your web history – every page on every website you’ve visited? Would you want the spreadsheet you do your personal finances on stored on Googles servers?

Thought Not.

Note that although you can tell Google Desktop not to put files on the central server, it seems to be “all or nothing” – you can’t share files selectively – you want to share some of your files, you have to share them all.

Now add into that the prospect of staff at your company indexing your servers with this tool – think of all the “confidential” reports that could be accidentally sent to Google.

Realise this – you could be fired for distributing company confidential information without even realising it. Company’s should make a rule now about Google Desktop – up till now it’s been a harmless (and far better alternative) to the general searches in Windows. Now it could be sharing your secrets with Google.

This is (in my opinion) a “very bad idea”. Yes, the search tool was good in V1 and 2, but this version goes too far, and sacrifices privacy for the sake of convenience. I won’t be installing Version 3 – so I cannot confirm that the default for sharing my files is “don’t”

Yes, Google has a privacy policy in place, and yes

Google treats the contents of your indexed files as personal information

However can you see the value to a hacker of all that personal information stored over at Google – I can see some unscrupulous characters hitting that server farm fairly hard for the information contained in it.

Better make sure your password is really good, and if your employer has any sense they’ll ban this thing from their network, and block the traffic at the firewall.



3 thoughts on “Google Desktop 3 – time to worry

  1. I agree with you Tom, this does appear to be taking it a little too far. I have been reading recently (like most others, probably) about how Google are planning world domination (admitedly though, from US sources).
    But I for one like to know where my personal information is stored. It may sound odd, but although I have embraced internet banking and use it daily, I am still petrified of it. And they’re banks! Are Google going to maintain a similar level of security? Time for some research I think? I’ll start by Googling it… 😉

  2. I’ve always been wary of desktop bars like this. Whilst I will use Yahoo and MSN messenger products because they’re useful I refuse to “buy into the brand” as the marketing guys put it.

    I don’t see the benefit to me in being able to search my home machine from work or vice versa.
    From a personal point of view I ensure my work life and my personal life are kept seperate, I don’t mix the two so have no reason to use this wonderful new functionality.

  3. Malcolm – I’m with you on that – I use the tools if I find them useful (and until this version, the Google Desktop Search was excellent – and far better than the inbuilt search tool in Windows) but this from Google is going too far – being able to search my own PC when I’m sitting in front of it is one thing – copying my documents to the Google Datacenter so I can search them from anywhere is quite another.

    MSN’s Messenger is good – but that’s only ‘cos most of my IM contacts also use it!

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