Google Drive has arrived and people all over are taking the new cloud storage service out for a spin. The free drive space is great, and the cost to buy more gives the competition a run for its money. While an issue over converting your files into Google Docs format to work on them is a slight bump in the road, there is one major roadblock— the terms of service.
That’s right, putting your files in the cloud also puts them in Google’s hands, giving the search giant permission to do with them as it wishes.
This doesn’t flat out mean that the new business plan you’ve been chipping away at for years will all of a sudden start showing up on start-up blogs all over the world. Or those not so flattering pictures from your friend’s birthday party last weekend will suddenly appear on billboards in a “party responsibly” campaign. But your files could be used internally, however Google wants. Maybe you’d start showing up in Google Ads. You’d never know!
The wording in the terms of service is open-ended and ambiguous. It’s that same sort of ambiguity that was found in proposed U.S. anti-privacy bills—which prompted Wikipedia to go dark for 24 hours in protest.
I get that the more Google knows about me the better it can serve me. I might not agree with the whole “search, plus your world” thing, but the fact Google gets to use any of the data I upload to Drive is not the surprise I was looking to find inside.
Google’s offering with Drive is aggressive compared to its rivals, I admit that. But while Dropbox might be double the price for half the storage, you at least get to keep ownership of your files—it’s written right in their terms of service. Microsoft is offering 25GB of space to existing Skydrive customers to retaliate, and in a comparison of privacy policies you can see Microsoft won’t use your content for marketing.
If you don’t like the ambiguity of Google Drive’s terms of service, you can opt out of using it—but Google still has permission to use all of the files you stored there long after you’ve deleted them and crawled back to the competition. That’s right—leave all you want. Google can still use them.
Will this stop you from signing up? Or have you accepted the fact that Google already has enough of your personal info that there’s no point in trying to hide?
*Updated to include Microsoft Skydrive offer/comparison