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Google Desktop 3: Convenience vs. Privacy
Author: Brian Anderson
Source: Google
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Google Desktop 3:  Convenience vs. Privacy
February 24, 2006

Security? Privacy? By Who's Definition?

Now let's not think for a minute that Google is in any way stupid, or has a complete lack of concern for your security and privacy. In fact it is just the opposite. They do care. When they transfer your files to their servers they do so over SSL. SSL, or Secure Socket Layers, is a widely accepted way of transferring information over the internet securely and without concern of anyone else being able to intercept that information and being able to read it. However they do not tell you what encryption they use, so with out knowing which algorithms they use unfortunately you really don't know how secure the SSL connection is.

They also will not let just anyone run a search and access your information, either from the search engine, nor another Google Desktop client. So there is no real concern with either one of these issues, and on these issues I trust Google does everything they say they do.

So then, what may you ask is my concerns? Again let me state... I am an information security professional, so much like a police officer, FBI agent, or a spy, I don't inherently trust people or businesses. I also know a lot about how companies work and most importantly how IT (Information Technology) works. I also know a decent amount about the laws as they pertain to information, and the disclosure of that information. Let me say, that I am not a lawyer, nor am I offering any legal advice in any way shape or form, nor does any of this article represent the thoughts or opinions of the management, owners, staff, members, or any one else in any way connected to These are my opinions, professional or otherwise.

First, by turning on the "Search Across Computers" feature you are doing so by your own free will, as it is not turned on by default. So, in no way is Google forcing this feature on anyone, such as is done with many applications that have questionable features that are turned on by default forcing the user to turn them off. But once you have done this, you either have to spend a lot of time configuring Google Desktop to let it know which directories and files to index and share, or like I have a feeling most users will do, is just turn it on and accept the defaults.

If you very carefully configure which documents to share, and you are 100% sure these files are safe to share and will represent no harm to either you personally or your company if these files are exposed to anyone, then you can probably stop reading here and go use Google Desktop and enjoy. But if you are like most people (including myself), you wouldn't bother to share information and documents that aren't useful to others. Face it, these files may contain information that is not public, otherwise you would have no need to keep the information in private documents. You would simply go to and do a search for the information. What other reason do you have for "sharing" information across multiple computers if that information isn't something that can't easily be obtained by other means? It doesn't make sense to me you would do this. So it makes sense to me that the information contained in these files are in fact personal in nature, or confidential either personal or business information.

Again, you're probably thinking "OK, yea, so... What are your concerns?" Well let's take a look at them.

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