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...To enable the computer-to-computer search function, a user specifies what information should be indexed and then agrees to allow Google to transfer the material to its own storage system. Google plans to encrypt all data transferred from users' hard drives and restrict access to just a handful of its employees. The company says it won't peruse any of the transferred information.
Internet search giant Google, which raised eyebrows when it fought the Department of Justice's attempts to monitor personal search queries, today unveils a new desktop search tool that accesses more private records than ever — of those who choose to use it.
Seriously I am surprised they put this out so soon after the whole Yahoo! and MSN giving away our personal info.
"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. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants—your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whoever—could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files."
The new Desktop feature is not so much about offering users a great service. It's more about Google being able to predict more efficiently what type of ads users would click on.
Predicting what ads to show to consumers
So for example, lets say Joe uses Google Desktop Search Feature and as a result has the contents of his hard drive(s) stored on Google's server. Google can then not only actively monitor what content Joe has on his computer but also what content Joe created or accessed recently. If Joe, for instance, recently created or downloaded five documents about "web hosting", Google could predict that wherever Joe goes online, "web hosting" ads would be the ones that Joe is most likely to click on. Predicting users demand in this way can help Google rake in billions at the cost of mine and your privacy.
On the other hand if a user creates documents about pregnancy, or mentions keywords about "pregnancy" in their recent documents, Google could guess that the user is most likely to click on "pregnancy" related ads.
As a consultant I am surprised to see how many people use the same password for multiple services, which is a very insecure practice. Some of these passwords are shared with other people (such as a web site owner who may share his passwords with his webmaster).
People who follow such insecure practice may open their entire computers to prying eyes, thanks to Google Desktop Search.
ZDNET quotes Peter Sommers, a research fellow at LSE.
"If a law enforcement agency wants this information from Google, legally they're entitled to do that provide they comply with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. From a practical perspective, law enforcement agencies are always looking for places where they can get a great deal of information without much effort."