Version 3 of the Google Desktop indexing and searching software is raising privacy concerns over a new feature that allows users to index and search files spanning multiple machines. The latest version of the software has a feature that tracks data from more than one machine, by copying personal text files to Google servers. This is in contrast to previous version of the software, which merely indexed files and did not copy anything anywhere.
How Google Desktop 3 works:
• Computer A (say, a home PC) and computer B (the one at work) both download Google Desktop, which indexes all files on the hard drives and sends text copies of Office documents (Word, Excel) and other files to Google.
• Computer B signs into Google, searches for a file on Computer A and retrieves it. Google says it only keeps the data for 30 days and will delete the files if not accessed.
EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann claims that Google Desktop Search 3 is an enormous privacy risk for users who choose to deploy it. "Unless you go to the trouble of configuring Google Desktop carefully, it will cough up your tax returns, medical and financial records, and any other text files you happen to have," he said.