Google Drive Terms Of Service Let Google Do Whatever It Likes With Your Files

Google Drive Terms Of Service Let Google Do Whatever It Likes With Your Files

Store a file in your Google Drive and you grant Google a license to do anything with it.

Yesterday, Google launched the near-mythical Google Drive, a 5GB Dropbox alternative with some impressive features: OCR and searching of the text in even scanned documents, (searchable) image recognition in photos, and integration with most of Google’s other services.

But there’s something else hidden in Google Drive which may make you think twice about using all these wonderful new toys: The rather scary terms of service (TOS), which gives Google a license to use all of your stored documents and photos for pretty much whatever it likes.

The [full TOS][www.google.com] are pasted at the end of this post, but the relevant part for users of regular, personal Google accounts is here:

> 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.

Translation: you’re effectively ceding copyright and any other form of control you have over your personal documents to Google. Worse, any document created by someone else is also made subject to these conditions, just by storing it in your GDrive:

> Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

If this rings a bell, it’s because Dropbox did the [same thing](http://blog.dropbox.com/?p=846) last year, quickly climbing down and claiming that it was all just a silly misunderstanding.

Google does at least say that these conditions are solely for “the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones,” but as terms of service can change, I’d be a little worried about this claim.

I’m as excited as anyone about the cool search features of the Google Drive, but there’s no way I’m going to put anything important in my personal Google Drive until this section of the TOS is scrubbed. If you’re using a Google Apps account though, whether paid or free, the TOS make no claims on your personal data.

Still, we can afford to wait: Until Google Drive is integrated into almost every app store app that deals with files, then it won’t come close to being as useful or ubiquitous as Dropbox.

Google’s full [Google Drive terms of service][www.google.com]:

**Your Content in our Services**

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.

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. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.

[blog.dropbox.com]: http://blog.dropbox.com/?p=846
[www.google.com]: http://www.google.com/policies/terms/

  • howie_isaacks

    It’s as I’ve always said about Google’s “free services”… You’re not the customer. You’re their product. This is why I don’t use a lot of Google’s free services. I ditched Gmail a long time ago, and never used Google Docs.

  • endantwit

    This is nothing new. Google Drive has the same Terms of Service as the TOS Google announced on the first or march.

  • Chris Howell

    From the article:

    “…you’re effectively ceding copyright and any other form of control you have over your personal documents to Google.”

    From the ToS:

    “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.

    …Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services.”

    That line I quote from your article is basically shown to be a complete fabrication by the actual content of the ToS. Not only do you retain IP ownership, you are also empowered to use privacy settings present in the services (such as who you share photos with on Google+) to control what Google can and can’t do with your data.

    As for “but as terms of service can change, I’d be a little worried about this claim.”, well, isn’t that true of any ToS ever?

  • CLSEmployerLaw

    It’s not really true to say that they can do anything they want. The ToS basically is giving Google the right to look at your files and use that information to target you with ads, push you toward certain search results, etc. I don’t love that my information is going to make it “easier” for Google to throw ads at me, but I think saying the ToS gives them the right to do whatever they want with your information is a bit disingenuous.

  • nick88msn

    “The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

    So what’s the point? They can’t sell your data, they use it for their ads….it’s google we know how they make money….

  • mr_bee

    “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to … reproduce, modify, create derivative works … communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

    This statement counteracts everything else. Legal statements like this are not reductive either so the fact that they state their intent elsewhere to be only associated with certain goals (their service etc.), those statements do not cancel this one.

    The author is right and the critics below are mis-representing things. Google can do *anything* it wants with your files and you should expect to have zero privacy from them.

  • Ashley Balogh

    Same old news recycled whenever a ‘new’ service comes up. Tumblr, icloud, skydrive.

    They all use the exact same terminology.

    For good reporting on this, see http://www.theverge.com/2012/4/25/2973849/google-drive-terms-privacy-data-skydrive-dropbox-icloud .

    If you want them to store your copyrighted property, you must give them permission to do so. Pretty standard TOS.

  • teckpert

    Makes sense that ads will be pushed based on document content. More ways for Google to own you. Should drop that based on paid accounts.

  • ApplePr0n

    Basically they dont so anything except creep on your files and target ads geared to you because of said files

  • ApplePr0n

    @CLSEmployerLaw. Exactly, its just to market their ads to you even more

  • Salerno Claude

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    Kitchen Ice Cube Trays & Moulds

  • rosafarnandis

    This is so good to see that you are in the press. This is so good for your promotion. You want to see more of this in the future.
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Charlie Sorrel Charlie Sorrel is the Reviews Editor here on Cult of Mac. Follow Charlie  on Twitter at @mistercharlie.

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