Don’t Use Google Desktop Search Across Computers

The latest Google Desktop has a feature that lets you search the contents of one of your computers from another computer. That sounds peachy except that it does it by putting the contents of both of your computers on the Google servers.

That’s right, they get to look at everything on your hard drive… free access. Google says they’ll only use it for Good. But there is no way for you to know if your data is used for Evil until it’s too late.

Do not use Google Desktop Search Across Computers.

Before removing the feature, find and click the “Clear my files from Google” button in the Search Across Computers Preferences menu. I don’t know if it actually does what it says, but it might.

And if you’re thinking, “Yeah but Google isn’t evil.”… Do you remember when an AOL employee stole 92 million email addresses from AOL? Do you know what a subpoena is? Have you read the PATRIOT act?

2 Comments

  1. Tom Limoncelli says:

    Did you see that the feature is defaulted to “off” and you can’t enable it without a big ass warning that explains this to you?

  2. Lee says:

    “Big ass” is all in the eyes of the beholder.

    Internet users (experienced and novice users alike) have been numbed to the idea of clicking past license agreements and such. But even if you read the Search Across Computers agreement, you won’t nessesarily realize how potentially invasive the tool can be. If you read it, you might say to yourself, “I see that the Google agreement says they will be kind to my data, I can trust them.” That is all well and good, but my post points out some non-obvious risks.

    I first heard about the controversy in a computer magazine and noticed that there is a lot of talk about this all over the place.

    I have other, smaller concerns as well… Two that I can think of are:
    – Google could have used a peer-to-peer indexing model where Google doesn’t get access to the data.

    – It’s not obvious but is true that if your Gmail password is hacked, your computer becomes compromised. This changes your Gmail account from “a nice free email service” to a gateway to your computer that must be guarded.

    I didn’t write “Don’t use Google Desktop.” I wrote, “Don’t use Google Desktop Search Across Computers.”

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