Unlike iCloud, Google’s Rumored Cloud Storage Could Be a Privacy Nightmare

Unlike iCloud, Google’s Rumored Cloud Storage Could Be a Privacy Nightmare

Google could easily amass a good deal of data on users of its expected cloud storage service

There have been rumors circulating for some time about Google releasing its own cloud storage service. According to reports, the service is on the verge of release a launch expected next week. Google’s service will enter a crowded market of cloud providers that includes Apple’s iCloud, Box with its new OneCloud feature, and the popular Dropbox.

Public cloud services like these tend to concern business and IT leaders because of the ease with which data migrates out of the office when they’re widely used. A Google service is likely to engender even more privacy and confidentiality issues on the part of businesses – and for good reasons that should concern anyone considering using it.

The big potential issue with a Google storage service is how it will differ from almost every other public cloud service on the market. Cloud providers look at their users as their end customers. Even those that offer free storage rely on a freemium model in which a percentage of users will be willing to pay for additional space. Most also offer some additional features to paying customers. Even Apple uses that type of model with iCloud despite the fact that iCloud is primarily aimed at being a value adding feature to Apple’s various product lines.

A Google storage option, on the other hand, is very likely to be offered under the same model as almost every other Google service – free, with targeted ads and the ability for Google to derive information and demographics data based on user activity. Google can then analyze that data and sell it to advertisers.

Will the company actively comb through every one of the files and documents its users put in their Google Drives? Probably not, but it will be able to tease out a lot of information without needing to look at every file. File names, IP addresses indicating where each connection was made, devices or platforms used to connect, frequency of use, file formats, sharing behavior, and integration with other Google services can create a pretty solid snapshot of each user.

Even if the company does go with a more traditional business model, it can still tease out these details. With the new privacy policies the company enacted earlier this year, Google can track and merge data around its storage solution with data from its other services like GMail, YouTube, search, Google Reader, Google +, and more. For a company that wants to index everything in the world and that tends to play fast and loose with privacy (not to mention copyright and intelectual property), that additional data is going to be very tempting. Add to that the fact that users or businesses won’t even have a clear idea of what Google is tracking or what it’s doing with the data it compiles, and there’s a clear reason to be concerned.

Does that mean everyone should immediately write off the idea of using a Google storage service? Not entirely, taking a good hard look at the service’s user agreement before trying it out is definitely important.

  • Matthew Gonzales Landry

    I knew this would happen. Ad business is tied in with every little thing they do. It’s really scary what they get away with, even if they create an algorithm to search for key words and phrases, this is not good. Abuse of power? For damn sure. And then these people think they’re really getting a free service. No, you’re trading invaluable, personal information for GeeBees of cloud storage. Pay the $15 and get a secure cloud service.

  • cjschris

    Sigh. Google Docs doesn’t even have ads, and Google would be breaking their own policies. Everyone who speculates as to what Google might be doing is speculating, nothing more, nothing less.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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