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Langa Letter: Google's New Tools: Proceed With Caution

Before you embrace all of Google's new technologies, consider the privacy implications. Google's stuff is great, Fred Langa says, but don't get carried away with the novelty of it all.
Handle With Care
My recommendation is to use Google's services, but with caution, and only when it makes sense. The main Google search engine is still unrivalled, for example: It makes sense to use it. But there are many local desktop-search tools available; and, being local, they keep their indexes and search results local and private. Why would you really need a Google-based desktop search? The short answer is: You don't.

Similarly, Gmail may be the ultimate in disposable or generic E-mail accounts, with huge amounts of free storage. But that storage is subject to parsing by various bots and indexers, and ultimately is under Google's control. Thus, for any kind of unencrypted private E-mail--corporate, privileged, personal or otherwise--it's safer to keep that material under your own (or your company's) control; and out of the hands of third parties who might potentially want to snoop or mine it, either now or perhaps in the future.

Related Links

Google Personal-Search Tracker Raises Privacy Concerns

Google Worm Shows Bad Guys Want Efficiency, Too

A Glimpse Inside Google

Gartner Advises: Don't Use Google Desktop In Enterprise

Google Tests Non-Search-Related Ads

How Google Threatens Microsoft

In fact, the only way I'd use a Gmail account for sensitive info would be to E-mail encrypted files. With the files encrypted, the contents would be safe from indexing or any other kind of prying, benign or otherwise.

So: It all comes down to keeping your eyes open, and being thoughtful and selective about the services that Google--or anyone, for that matter--offers you. Google's stuff is great--but don't get carried away with the novelty of it all. Some information and services are better kept close to home, and under your own control.

What's your take? Is Fred being paranoid, or do you agree with his assessment? Do you use Google's login-required services for yourself? For your work? Does your company allow or prohibit the use of third-party E-mail services for corporate communication? Join in the discussion!

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit Fred Langa's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about Fred Langa, please visit his page on the Listening Post.