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Monday, November 01, 2004
Sure, Check Your Email From My Computer
Google Desktop presents a lot of privacy concerns, as the chatter goes. People are worried about all tha data being available on their system, and the possibility that a malicious hacker or Google itself will misuse the data. Very little has been talked about the ability of a person to use Desktop to spy on co-workers.

Today, we put out a new issue of the paper, as we do every Monday (which is why I rarely post on Mondays). I know exactly what happens during the final stages of production: I run around like a crazy man, trying to make sure things get done, and invariably, my laptop winds up on all sorts of laps. It's just convenient. I think god invented wi-fi just for me, and I like to spread the love. Hot desking is all the rage in our offices, and you never know who'll be using my computer next.

And they all use AOL Instant Messenger to chat.

My computer is going to log everything they say, and everything said to them. Google Desktop doesn't care who's logged in to AIM, it records all conversations. And when they're done, I just have to type in their screen name and see what they said, and what they may have said about me. Can I resist the temptation? Maybe, maybe not. Will I warn my co-workers not to use my machine, since it records them? Probably not. I'm more worried about getting out the next issue than privacy issues. But at some point, I'm going to run a Google vanity search and see at the top, "Results stored on your computer: Desiree: Boy, I hate this Nathan guy..."

Maybe I want to know what they're saying. Maybe I want people who use my machine to say things I wouldn't like to have no privacy. But still, it's very freaky. Combine Google Desktop with the proxy and your boss has a neat little IM conversation log, which many companies already do. Your own computer, innovation, it's all working against you.

So lock your computer whenever you step away from it.
Did you really say everyone at Google uses AIM to chat with each other?
Boy, if I was AOL I'd be reviewing the AIM server logs very carefully for anyone from Google's IP range...
First Anonymous Guy: I don't want people to stop using my computer. I consider it a useful part of how we stay efficient. That said, I worry about the privacy implications my computer poses to others.

Second Anonymous Guy: I don't work at Google! Why do people assume that I do?
I assumed you work at Google because you call your blog InsideGoogle... what is your relationship with Google, then?

I see your point about how it's convenient for anyone to be able to use anyone else's computer.
If people are willing to use your computer to check their email/IM, then their privacy is their concern, not yours. They can see you're running Google Desktop by checking the system tray, and they should be aware that this means all their activity will be logged.

-- Maurits

BTW, I'm the author of both previous anonymous posts. I prefer to post anonymously because I don't want to bother creating a Blogger profile.
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