Last week the The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an online privacy advocacy group, issued a statement discouraging Internet users from using the Google Desktop software because of a feature that could allow Google to copy the contents of your hard drive.
Google was already under privacy scrutiny for it’s stance against the United States government in trying to keep public search records from it’s popular search engines private. Google has now done an about face in it’s apparent stance on user privacy.
Okay, let me get this straight. The United States Government has no business knowing what a search for using Google’s search engine but my document, excel spreadsheet and other classified files that I store on my hard drive is open season for the world to see? Sounds like another interesting but a dangerous game of “double standard” is being played out on a more disturbing scale.
It’s important to realize that this feature which Google has dubbed “Search Across Computers” can be easily disabled from within the Google Desktop software, but what happens when a feature like this becomes enabled by default? Especially, without the explicit knowledge of the end user.
Google realizes that it sets the bar quite high and prides themselves as the leader in technology concept development and implementation which causes it’s competitors to play “catch up”. While this might sound a lot like “Chicken Little”. However, I for one and I am sure others in the computer security profession cringe at the thought of other companies like Yahoo, Time Warner and Microsoft who may think that duplicating their own versions of “Search Across Computers” is mandatory to compete for advertising dollars.
To sum up this latest installment of mine, security again, has taken a deliberate back seat to “functionality“.
Bill Matherly is a computer security consultant in Oklahoma City, and is a regular contributor of The Security Catalyst website. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All views and opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily the views and opinions of The Security Catalyst web site or administrators.