The New York Times reports on privacy questions concerning Google’s new cloud computing service, Google Drive. “Cloud computing” is where you upload, store and access your data at an online service owned or operated by others. Microsoft, Apple and many others offer these services. (Read a previous post for more on privacy and security questions surrounding cloud computing services.) The Times reports:
A number of companies are raising concerns about what Google says it can do with documents stored on the new Google Drive online storage service.
On Tuesday, Google Drive began offering 5 gigabytes of free storage of documents, pictures, video, and other digital goodies. Google executives said that customers could avail themselves of built-in Google technologies like character recognition, visually based image search and video encoding for multiple formats, including Google’s YouTube.
Critics pointed out that Drive, like any Google product, would fall under Google’s terms of service, which let Google scan and use its consumers’ content for Google’s own purposes. Load a sensitive corporate document onto Drive and Google would be within its rights to read it. The Verge Web site pulled out language from the service agreements of Dropbox and Microsoft’s Skydrive service that were considerably more sensitive to concerns over privacy and intellectual property rights. […]
Companies, The New York Times among them, advised employees not to use Drive or Gmail for company content until Google clarified how its policies might affect corporate information.
Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel said, “People shouldn’t come to the conclusion that we’re doing nefarious things. We, Facebook and Microsoft are all trying to do similar things. The terms of service are trying to cover what is inherent in Web-based services.” […]
Every online e-mail and storage service, at minimum, scans for viruses and makes backup copies of user data. The scale at which Google operates, however, and the number of features it offers, may affect how it is seen. The prospect of fresh petabytes of data inside Google, where Google has broad license to experiment, may provide renewed scrutiny about what Google does with data. The content of e-mails that people write in Gmail is machine scanned to place ads, for example, but it is not broadly understood that so also are e-mails sent into a Gmail account from other service providers.