Can Google be trusted with your -- or your firm's -- private data? That question has popped up more than once over the last few days.
First, smiles over Google's announcement of its long-awaited Google Drive service last week turned to frowns of concern when "scary licensing terms" raised questions Internet-wide.
[It] looks like I'm giving up privacy rights on anything I store on GoogleDrive when I agree to allow them to "communicate, publish... and distribute such content" forever... [Also, with] Google, I worry about aggregation of my data, because so much of my electronic life passes through Google. If Google reserves the right to look at and make "derivative works" of anything sent to me via gmail, conversations on googleVoice, Google+, and my YouTube videos, that's a whole lot of my electronic life.
Google was quick to reassure users, and subsequent
press coverage seemed to lay the fears to rest. Still, nagging doubts persist. "Despite the assurances of providers that legal jargon exists only to facilitate data transfer, the fact is that they still gain some right to the data, even if that right is never exercised," wrote blogger Doug Bonderud. And he counsels IT to keep an eye on what employees are posting to services like Google Drive.
Then came news today about an FCC report that said, contrary to past information, Google personnel involved with Street View knew a part-time engineer was slurping up private information from WiFi users via Street View for a couple of years before 2010.
As ever, Google denies wrongdoing. "We agree with the FCC's conclusion that we did not break the law. We hope that we can now put this matter behind us," a spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times.
There's something else: As a final statement of disapproval, the FCC has fined Google $25,000 for a poor response to its investigation of this matter. "For many months, Google deliberately impeded and delayed the Bureau's investigation by failing to respond to requests for material information and to provide certifications and verifications of its responses," the FCC report said.
Google says it will file a formal response to the FCC within 30 days. Predictably, the press is getting the word that the company disagrees with the lack-of-cooperation accusation.
Can enterprise users put any lingering fears about Google's control over sensitive corporate data behind them? Can individual users do the same regarding personal information? The answer may depend on what users or businesses are posting to Google Drive or other Google locations. If there is enough sensitive data involved, precautions should be taken to ensure it's marshaled and protected. Naturally, that goes for the use of any other online service.
At the same time, enterprises and consumers alike must start to voice their concerns more emphatically to Google. The record continues to show that raising the bar is the only way we can get Google to get the idea that private and/or sensitive information does not belong to Google forever to use however it chooses.
— Mary Jander , Managing Editor, Internet Evolution