Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Google Does *Not* Own Your Data

As an information security professional I find that I am acutely aware of attempts by vendors to propagate FUD and the media to sensationalize news. I was fortunate to attend SOURCE Boston last week and after watching Space Rouge's talk, "Media Hype in the Information Security Industry" I feel motivated to not only be aware of misinformation but to point it out as well.

This brings me to Google Drive. With yesterday's release of Google's file syncing service there has been a lot of concern over privacy and intellectual rights. In particular, the media has latched on to the following section of the Google Terms of Service:
When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.

Most seem to believe this implies that by uploading files to Google Drive you are transferring ownership. This is not the case.  First, it is important to note that these are general terms of service for all Google products and is not specific to Google Drive. Second, this is only part of the "Your Content in our Services" section. The beginning paragraph clearly states:
Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

It's highly plausible that the offending paragraph is the product of an overzealous lawyer attempting to cover every eventuality for all current and future products and services. It is not entirely inappropriate given the functionality built into Google Drive. For example, when uploading a scanned document Google uses OCR to index the file. The system is effectively reading your document to better make it available to you.

This may or may not make you comfortable using Google Drive. Regardless, I encourage you to read the complete Google Terms of Service so that you can make an educated decision on how much you are willing to share with Google.

*This post originally appeared on Maske[d]Crusader.net