There has been a lot of talk recently about Google Talk and how there are serious privacy concerns with the new application.
The biggest concern seems to come with the ability to search and share multiple computers with one account. In other words, you could use a single desktop search account to search, index and allow you to share files between your desktop and laptop for example.
But are these concerns grounded in truth? Is there really a privacy issue here?
I downloaded and installed the new Desktop Search beta the other day. It has some interesting new features such as the ability to remove panels from the sidebar and dock them anywhere you like on your desktop.
And there are several more panels available to let you do anything from manage what is indexed, to passing time by playing games.
One of the coolest features is its ability to reach beyond the desktop it is on to do a variety of things. Now, I can play tic tac toe with co-workers, or even friends around the world.
But the biggest, and most troubling update to some is the ability to remotely index files, as well as share them using Google servers to temporarily store the items.
By turning this feature on you give Google the right to store your files for up to 30 days. Therein lies the crux of the issue – there seems to be no way around this 30 day requirement.
All I have to say is ‘so what?’
So what if you have to give Google this ability? Google will encrypt the data so that no one else can access it. And even if there is some sort of DOJ subpoena requiring access to these files I don’t think it would stand up in court.
This is because Google has set up a network whereby all your Google activities are tied to one Google account. Your personalized home page, gmail, google analytics, adwords and adsense accounts all share the same Google account. Therefore, it would be difficult for anyone to get a subpoena to review information pertaining to only part of that account.
Legalities aside, if you are that concerned about the privacy being surrendered to Google in order to use this system then don’t sign up for it.
You can still download and use the new Desktop Search with most of its new features, but you don’t have to use the file sharing.
But what if you want to share files between computers?
Well, do what I did – go to your favorite electronics store and buy a flash drive. I just bought a USB flash drive with over 2 gigs of storage for under $100. Now I can easily transfer anything between any computer with no worry of some government agency wanting to know what’s on it.
As I said, I do have the new Google Desktop installed, and I did look at the settings for the search and file sharing, but I didn’t turn them on. I have no need to be able to search my home computer from work and vice versa, nor do I need to share files between the two computers.
And if I did, I’ll simply use the FTP site I have set up on a computer at home or the aforementioned flash drive.
Really, when it comes to all the other ways that Google captures your personal data, from search history to Gmail, should we be all that concerned that some files may end up being stored on a Google server somewhere?
I think we should have other concerns. For example, I think we should be concerned about what Google already knows about us via those services I mentioned earlier.
I think business owners should be concerned that such a service would allow employees to easily steal and transfer data to and from work.
I think if you are that scared of the US government infringing on your privacy then you shouldn’t have a Google account, nor Google Desktop Search nor a Gmail account. In fact I don’t think you should have any Internet accounts because quite honestly everyone is a target for the DOJ. Further, I can almost guarantee you that your local ISP will fold and hand over the data much easier than Google will.
So before you start complaining about how Google could infringe your privacy, remember that YOU have the ability to stop it from happening. It’s just a matter of choosing to do so.