Earlier this week, Google finally unveiled the long talked about Google Drive, which aims to compete with Dropbox. It’s easy to argue that it’s a smart move on Google’s part–the future of the internet and file sharing certainly points to cloud hosting. And with an increasingly mobile society, it’s easy to see how we’ll need better access to the documents we need when we need them.
The issue, though, is that Google’s Terms of Service are a bit, well, vague. According to a CNet article, Google’s generic, one-size-fits-all TOS state:
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).
Sounds a little worrisome, right? This issue was actually brought to my attention this morning by a writer friend of mine, who sounded the alarm to our grad school alumni group on Facebook (ah, the power of social media). As writers, copyright is obviously important to us–we guard our ideas and our words, and any time those are infringed upon all hell breaks loose. As a marketer, copyright is also important. I write a lot of content, and while I may not be writing about brand new ideas or concepts, my ideas and my words are my own, and I want those to be recognized as such. The vague language in Google TOS are worrisome for others too, though, such as real estate agents who often have documents with a lot of personal data on them (such as contracts) that doesn’t need to be shared.
Google’s response to CNet, when asked about this vague language, was the following:
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.
The portion of the TOS referenced above appears in the very first portion of the privacy agreement:
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.
So why the vague language later?
Google insists that they won’t share your documents or information unless you grant permission–even in the case of law enforcement asking for access to your data. The legalese, however, obviously leaves a loophole, and is a good reason for many to worry. Would Google ever actually share your data and give access to your private documents? I don’t know why they would. But the fact that their legal wording doesn’t explicitly state “We will never share your data” and instead resorts to vague language so as to include every single one of their products is worrisome. I, for one, won’t use Google Drive until they clear that language up, and will stick with Dropbox, who’s Terms of Service ARE crystal clear.