Google copies your hard drive content

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 10, 2006
Updated • May 2, 2013

Breaking news from the electronic frontier foundation: It warns users to use a feature called Search Across Computers that is part of the Google desktop software. This feature apparently stores copies of documents, such as word, pdf or text, on Google' own servers.

EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password.

"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

Update: The article has been moved to a new location on the EFF website, and we, as a consequence, have edited it to reflect the new location.

Update 2: Please note that Google Desktop has been discontinued, and is no longer available for the Windows operating system. The service was shut down on September 14, 2011, allowing existing users to continue using the service, but with the certainty that they would not receive updates or new features in the future.

Desktop has been used by tens of millions of people and we’ve been humbled by its usage and great user feedback. However, over the past seven years we’ve also witnessed some big changes in how users store and access their own data, with many moving to web-based applications. There has been a significant shift from local to cloud-based storage and computing, as well as integration of Google Desktop functionality (like local search) into most modern operating systems. This is a positive development for users and we’re excited that most people now have instant access to their personal information. As such, we’ll be discontinuing support for Google Desktop, including all of the associated APIs, services, plugins and gadgets.

With Google Desktop gone, the issue at hand has also resolved itself.


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  1. sgt99999 said on February 12, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    This is good information. It would be nice if someone published how to “configure Google Desktop very carefully.”

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