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Google Drive's overly generic Terms of Service leave much to be desired on privacy, lawyers say

Posted: , by Daniel P.

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Google Drive's overly generic Terms of Service leave much to be desired on privacy, lawyers say
Perhaps when we did our comparison among the current popular cloud services we should have included a section that compares their Terms of Service, especially regarding the privacy of users' own files stored there.

Google has kept its vague and generic ToS language for Google Drive, over which it is receiving a lot of flack lately, after it started consolidating user data from its vast span of services on March 1.

When you dig into those Terms of Service, at first read it seems that the kids at Mountain View can do anything they want with the data you upload, that's the way the license grant in a section of the privacy agreement is phrased:

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).
Google was quick to dismiss these worries, brought on by a legal expert, who reviewed its service policies: 

As our Terms of Service make clear, 'what belongs to you stays yours.' You own your files and control their sharing, plain and simple. Our Terms of Service enable us to give you the services you want -- so if you decide to share a document with someone, or open it on a different device, you can.
That reaffirms the first paragraph of the license grant we cite above, but doesn't really do much about the second part. The legal experts who looked at it said that it is way too vague and generic, leaving Google too much leeway with user's files, be it only to explain the conditions upon which the company licenses its services to users, so it can operate and improve them.

The best way to alleviate any concerns would be for Google to state clearly that privacy trumps licensing, data-mining and law enforcement compliance. Like what Dropbox did after it suffered a backlash against similar ToS it had before - the service now states:

To be clear, aside from the rare exceptions we identify in our Privacy Policy, no matter how the Services change, we won't share your content with others, including law enforcement, for any purpose unless you direct us to.
Thus you can be fairly certain that while your account might not be protected from peeping eyes if you conduct crimes against humanity, you are likely not going to be caught in the crossfires of something like the Megaupload scandal, or random government or even private entities willing to access your files with less than sound reasons, like data-mining and marketing, for example

via CNET

15 Comments
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posted on 26 Apr 2012, 04:57 2

1. darktranquillity (Posts: 284; Member since: 28 Feb 2012)


So by jus uploading a personnel pic of mine to google drive, i give them the right to publicly display and distribute it!!!!. Am i in cucumber town?

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 09:15 5

11. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 2011)


No, you don't. You are covered by Google's official privacy policy, which does not allow them to publicly show anything of yours without your permission. The above permissions are just so they can shuffle the data around in their various data centers as they upgrade them, make them available to you in different countries, share them with people you choose to share with, etc.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 11:01 2

15. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


+1 for you for clarifying it but i think the title of the article is completely MISLEADING. Micheal H. wrote a very good article on google`s unified privacy policy to eliminate any such concerns. even if we go by your wording in above reply to the post, the whole article doeant make any sense. so it would be great if you guys dont write articles in a manner which can be mis-understood or misleading titles like this.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 05:00

2. eaxvac (Posts: 328; Member since: 15 Jan 2012)


See? Don't trust the Googlightnig guy.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 05:37 4

3. groupsacc (Posts: 232; Member since: 28 Feb 2012)


Don't be evil.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 05:46

4. medicci37 (Posts: 615; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)


Well then i guess its Dropbox for me.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 06:00

5. joeymk (Posts: 100; Member since: 26 Jan 2012)


I knew something was s**tty here. Sticking with SkyDrive. GoogleDrive bye bye

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 06:15 2

6. PhoneArenaUser (Posts: 5471; Member since: 05 Aug 2011)


As I already have said, never trust "Clouds".

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 06:41

7. remyrz (Posts: 184; Member since: 28 Oct 2010)


so what about alll my photos of ''instant upload'' on G+.. is the same sh*t?!?! OMG!! stupid comertial of the father losing his baby's photos! >:O

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 08:29 1

10. shadowcell (Posts: 300; Member since: 28 Mar 2012)


You can turn off instant upload if you feel uncomfortable about it. Also, turning off location services doesn't geo-tag your pics to avoid privacy issues.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 08:27 1

9. shadowcell (Posts: 300; Member since: 28 Mar 2012)


Nothing knew to the playing field. This is pretty much the same ToS towards gmail and other Google products & services. Dropbox does things differently but to some point or extent these cloud services do monitor and/or take a piece of anonymous information.

They are all DMCA compliant also so if you got something to hide, don't upload.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 09:17 2

12. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 2011)


Actually, Dropbox and Skydrive have almost identical ToSs, and theirs are a bit more vague. Read them all before you worry about this one IMO.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 10:07

13. shadowcell (Posts: 300; Member since: 28 Mar 2012)


You got it boss. Since Microsoft never developed an app for Android OS I never seem to bother with Skydrive.

Side note: A friend of mine has access to Google Drive via Mac but as a PC user it says "my Google Drive isn't ready yet". He's an iOS app developer so could it be he's gotten early access?

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 10:31 3

14. Holmes108 (Posts: 1; Member since: 26 Apr 2012)


The article title is silly.

"Google Drive's overly generic Terms of Service....."

The Terms of Service all of these news sites are quoting aren't from Google Drive specifically... it's Google's general terms of service. The reason they are vague is because they are referring to all of it's services.

The lines of text in question refer to content you "submit" to their services. IE posting a picture publicly on Google+, or submitting your business listing for Google Maps. It has nothing to do with private files you're storing on your drive. They aren't going to steal the top secret plans for your next great invention (unless you intentionally submit them to one of their public services).

Look at Facebook, or any other service that allows you to submit content to a public area, and they will have nearly identical ToS.

But most sites are omitting all of this info, because they need to fabricate drama.

posted on 26 Apr 2012, 11:02 1

16. ZEUS.the.thunder.god (unregistered)


well said. its actually a pointless and misleading article as i said in my post above.

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