Privacy Risks of Desktop

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-02-17 Print this article Print

Search"> Boralv pointed out that in order to launch Search Across Computers, users must go through a number of steps that outline the technology and its potential risks, and specifically opt in for the tool. Any information shared among computers via the service is wiped off of Googles servers if it has not been accessed in 30 days time. Using Google Desktop 3 for Enterprise, PC users will also need to have administrative permissions to introduce the technology on their devices, a responsibility that few companies are willing to hand out to most employees in the current era of widely distributed malicious software programs and viruses.
"Google wants to give enterprises maximum control over how this product is used and employed within the corporate environment," Boralv said. "On flip side, for consumers, as a service provider we want to be as up-front and transparent as possible about how the data is treated, and they are forced to go through many steps, and agree to policies before using [Desktop Search]; our goal isnt to trick anyone."
Despite Googles promise of having the best intentions, some industry analysts have recommended that companies avoid Search Across Computers altogether. In a research note published this week, Whit Andrews, an analyst with Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn., labeled the feature as "a convenience that brings with it a certain degree of risk." Further identifying Search Across Computers as a "unacceptable security risk to many enterprises" largely because workers are likely to use the technology improperly and mistakenly share proprietary information, Andrews recommended that companies using Desktop Search 3 should immediately disable the feature and make sure that they have protected any information from being sent out onto Googles Web servers. Advocate organizations such as the EFF remain far more incensed by the tool, and pointed to Googles recent admission that it agreed to cooperate with the U.S. federal government by allowing law enforcement officials access to users search histories as proof that the company does not respect individuals privacy. As a result, people who dont understand the implications of Search Across Computers could have their data exposed unintentionally, EFF said. "This Google product highlights a key privacy problem in the digital age," Cindy Cohn, EFFs legal director, said in a statement. "Many Internet innovations involve storing personal files on a service providers computer, but under outdated laws, consumers who want to use these new technologies have to surrender their privacy rights. "If Google wants consumers to trust it to store copies of personal computer files, e-mails, search histories and chat logs, it should stand with EFF and demand that Congress update the privacy laws to better reflect life in the wired world," Cohn said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.


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