Search and Desist
turbotodd 100000388Y Visits (1389)
Google Desktop beta, specifically around their new "Search Across Computers" feature.
If you haven't used Google Desktop, know that it includes a very powerful desktop search capability, one which I use to find presentations and other files all the time. But in examining the fine print around the "Search Across Computers" feature, it does give one pause with respect to one's privacy.
As explained on the Google site, the new "Search Across Computers" function allows one to search documents and view Web pages across all your computers. Specifically, you can search your Web histories in all the major browsers, as well as Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and also PDF and Text files.
You Have Nothing to Hide...Do You?
Here's the issue: To do so, all that information must be uploaded and stored on a Google server. That means Google could potentially have copies of any and all documents that contain your very personal information: tax returns, medical and financial information, anything that you store on your desktop. (Enterprises beware, that could also include sensitive and proprietary business data as well.)
The Electronic Frontier Foundation pointed out in a press release yesterday that this makes users' 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."
The EFF release goes on to point out that the government could then demand users' files with a subpoena, and not the search warrant that would be required to seize information from your computer otherwise.
As powerful and useful as the Google Desktop feature has been, I've not yet flipped the switch to turn on -- nor do I plan to -- the "Search Across Computers" feature.
The way I see it is pretty simple: What they can't host won't hurt me.