End user beware

So today Google refreshed their desktop search tool. Personally I’ve found it handy (though the sidebar/widgets thing less so) and I generally like the product a lot. There’s a couple of feature improvements, notably an advanced search tool (finally). But it’s the “search from remote computers” feature that makes you go hmmm….

For those of you who might not be aware, the way that search works is essentially by creating a copy of everything, stripping it of irrelevant data, and compressing the results. The desktop search index, therefore, pretty much is a copy of all the relevant files on your PC. This “remote search” feature though essentially offers to upload that index to Google’s servers.

Now, no doubt some people will find this handy (search work PC’s from home and vice-versa)… but I also think it should give anyone pause. The Department of Justice is already after Google’s data – the idea that they could search desktops for mentions of “child porn” or “kill the President” has got to be a mighty tempting target. The fact that Google stores chat histories now in addition to emails and search histories is just icing on the cake.

I’m not paranoid about privacy, I don’t especially care what Google knows about me – more often than not, I find the benefits outweigh the risks when it comes to this stuff. But I think in the current political environment I’ll be keeping my hard drive to myself, thanks.

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