The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a U.S. digital rights group, is concerned that Google’s new Desktop search program is a significant privacy risk, BBC News reports.
The new Desktop search program allows users to search multiple computers for information or files.
For more on Google’s new Desktop search, read New Google Desktop Search Tools.
In order to search more than one computer, users allow Google to transfer information or files from one computer to the next. This means that Google possesses the files on its own servers.
Google’s release of the new search tools comes amidst the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) ongoing effort to obtain information on the search habits of its users. The DOJ issued subpoenas to a number of different search entities, like America Online, requesting similar information, but Google is the only one that refused. For more background on Google’s DOJ subpoena refusal, read Google Lawsuit to Be Heard in February and Google Subpoena Hearing Postponed.
“Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google’s search logs, it’s shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers,” said EFF staff attorney Kevin Bankston. “Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the desktop software can index.”
Google has responded to privacy concerns by assuring users that all transferred data will be encrypted and its access restricted. The company also says the data will not be retained for more than 30 days, BBC News reports.
“We think this will be a very useful tool, but you will have to give up some of your privacy,” Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer said.
For more recent action by the EFF, read AT&T Sued for Cooperation in NSA Spying.
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