Share Across Computers is Just the First Step

By now you've heard the news that Google Desktop 3 beta is available for download. There are plenty of useful new features, most of which include enhanced interaction with other desktop users.
The most interesting new feature is called "Share Across Computers," and it allows you to make some of your documents available when you search from another computer. Besides the obvious convenience factor, some bloggers are raising privacy concerns. Mike Arrington notes the difference between the old privacy policy and the new one. The old one states:

""These combined results can be seen only from your own computer; your computer's content is never sent to Google (or anyone else).""
Does Google have an incentive to offer "Share Across Computers" beyond just adding more convenient features? I think they do.

In December I wrote a column called Google Desktop is P2P in Sheep's Clothing. In it, I proposed that Google wants to do more than just put its brand and search functionality on your desktop. The real value to Google is organizing vast amounts of data, doing trend analysis on it, and possible selling advertising around it. Yes, Google offers privacy assurances for their new sharing functionality. But to my mind, these are the same types of assurances they offer with Gmail. They won't read your data or share the data itself, but they will use keywords in the data to offer up ads, and they will analyze the type and variety of content across users to more effectively target advertising.

I just downloaded the new desktop, but it's telling me I have to restart my 'puter before I can set it up. So more on this later.

Ben Charny is on vacation.'s editor, Steve Bryant, is filling in on Google Watch until Ben returns.