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Privacy Advocates Warn Users about  Google Desktop - Electronic Frontier Foundation

February 10th 2006

Privacy Advocates Warn Users about  Google Desktop - Electronic Frontier Foundation

Google Desktop

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) warned computer users to not use the Google Desktop feature called “Search Across Computers”.  According to the foundation, it makes personal data vulnerable to government subpoena, private litigants and hackers. 

The EFF headline reads “Google Copies Your Hard Drive – Government Smiles in Anticipation”.  The new Search Across Computers feature stores copies of the user’s files including Word documents, PDF files, spreadsheets and more. 

According to an EFF press release, staff attorney Kevin Bankston said “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.”


Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL were recently subpoenaed by the federal government for general user search data.  So far, all but Google have complied with the subpoena.  Privacy rights advocates applaud Google for their stance.  Many of these advocates are concerned about possible future government incursions. 

Privacy groups worry that the government may want to see what is on your home or business computer next.  By acquiring a search warrant or subpoena for Google data, they bypass you and can see what is on your computer.  According to the foundation, you may not even be notified in time to challenge the data collection.


The Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 (ECPA) gives only limited privacy protection to your emails and other files stored by online service providers. This low level of privacy may disappear if service providers use the data for marketing purposes.

The foundation says the privacy agreement between the Desktop users and Google may allow the data to be used for marketing purposes.  Cindy Cohn, EFF Legal Director said “If Google wants consumers to trust it to store copies of personal computer files, emails, search histories and chat logs, and still 'not be evil,' it should stand with EFF and demand that Congress update the privacy laws to better reflect life in the wired world.”

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Dan Wilson
Best Syndication staff writer

PC Computers

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                                            Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:51 PM