In January, storage market leader EMC announced that it was adding Google Desktop Search to one of its Documentum business units ECM (enterprise content management) products.
EMC added the technology, which claims the ability to mine the data stored on a PCs hard drive much as Googles Web search indexes the Internet, in the name of offering its customers yet another avenue for querying corporate data as part of its ECI (Enterprise Content Integration) search package.
On Feb. 9, Google introduced a beta of its next-generation version of the PC application, Google Desktop 3, including a new feature dubbed "Search Across Computers" that has caused some industry watchers to label the new iteration of the software as a potentially serious privacy risk.
Search Across Computers allows people with registered Google accounts to mine for information stored on multiple computers they work on, and garner information from their desktops remotely from other devices.
According to some experts, including lawyers for IT industry watchers Electronic Frontier Foundation, the function could make personal or corporate data "more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants" while also providing a "convenient one-stop-shop for hackers" were they to obtain a users Google password and therefore be able to access any data shared with Search Across Computers.
EMC executives said the controversy over the feature has done nothing to change their minds about the value of Google Desktop Search. Lubor Ptacek, director of product marketing for EMCs Software Group, indicated that the companys customers are still interested in working with the technology in their content management operations, and he said his company will continue to support integration with the product.
While Google makes the Desktop Search technology available for free to anyone who downloads it, EMC has worked with the company to go further and help marry their respective applications. Documentum ECI is an ECM search engine used for tracking data within corporate IT operations.
However, Ptacek said EMC, based in Hopkinton, Mass., will give its customers alternatives if they are spooked by the possibility of introducing Google Desktop 3 into their businesses, including offering the opportunity to use earlier versions of the software that did not include Search Across Computers.
"We will leave it up to the customer to determine which version of Google Desktop they want to use," Ptacek said. "It is important to note that our technology, the ECI services, allows users to search across different sources and repositories, Google Desktop being one of them; we respect the security model of any information source."
In fact, the executive said the uncertainty caused by the emergence of such widely available search tools, which can also be introduced into corporate PCs by individual users, is one of the primary reasons why customers are investing in ECM.
"These types of issues are driving the adoption of enterprise content management technologies," he said. "Due to security concerns with managing content residing on an employees desktop, companies are turning to [our solutions]; with enterprise content management, companies are able to apply policies to ensure that critical content is secure."
Google representatives also downplayed the effect of the Search Across Computers controversy in the enterprise space. Spokespeople for the Mountain View, Calif., company said it will be launching a version of the Desktop Search 3 software designed specifically for enterprise users in the coming weeks that should help reassure potential EMC users about security issues.
As with its earlier versions of Desktop Search for Enterprise, company spokesperson Sonya Boralv said, the upcoming application will include tools that allow IT managers to shut off any feature such as Search Across Computers that they decide not to introduce to other workers.