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

Data Protection

Once you have enabled the "Share Across Computers" feature, Google Desktop starts uploading your files via SSL to their servers. So we know that the transportation is probably safe. But what about the storage? Sure, no other Google Desktop user can access your files, and no one searching from can access your files. But what about Google's system administrators? Can they? You bet they can. It is part of their job to have this type of access. They need this kind of access so they can maintain, setup, manage, and backup the systems. So exactly how many people at Google have access your files? Because Google doesn't share that information, we don't really know. However, based on my experiences and knowledge of Google's systems in general, I would say that is some place around 100 or more people.

OK, so the Google systems administrators have access to your files, so what? Right? System administrators at any company have access to company files, and the user's files either stored on a shared system or on the user's computer itself. What is the difference, and what is the real concern? Let's go over the facts.

Depending on which survey/report you read, between 70% - 90% of all security violations/information disclosure threats come from insiders. People who have been entrusted to protect the information are the ones most likely to use that information in ways not intended. Regardless of which report you read, and of exactly how they break the information down, the facts year after year prove that insiders (such as system administrators) are the ones that are committing most of these crimes and information disclosures.

Believe me, it is part of my job to do these investigations. I have seen it personally. I have read report after report that backs this up. Do the research for yourself. If you work for a company that has any type of security (either information or physical) ask them who commits most of the crimes/disclosures they are involved with. It is almost never the outsider. It's the trusted insider, the one with the access to the information day in and day out. It's the one who may actually hold a grudge against the company (in this case Google) because maybe they were passed over for a promotion, or someone else is making more money than they are, or they think their boss is mean to them, or what ever the million and one reasons for people justifying their actions to themselves.

So ask yourself... Do you trust these unknown people? Will Google tell you if one of them gets a hold of your information and uses it? What are your legal remedies if this happens? Do you even have any? Will you even ever know? How exactly DID you become the victim of identify theft? How did your competitor know about your new product or the pitch to that new possible big client?

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