Google’s Storage Plans Raise Plenty of Concerns

November 29th, 2007 - 5:53 am ICT by admin  

In the wake of this week’s buzz about Google’s plans for a new online service for file storage, Internet privacy specialists are raising concerns about the potential vulnerability of such data to government investigations. Such fears have been heightened by a variety of high-profile attempts by federal investigators to retrieve user information from online companies, including Amazon, Yahoo, MSN, and Google itself.

The buzz this week seems to have started from a report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, saying that Google is developing an integrated service that would allow users to store and organize their own information on Google’s servers. According to the WSJ story, users of the service could store any and all of their files — from business letters to family photos — on Google’s servers, and then access or share those from any computer or mobile device.

Although Google has declined to comment on the report, privacy watchdogs as well as competitors in the data storage industry have some concerns.

More Vulnerable Data

“Whenever information is in the hands of third-parties, it changes the protections available for that information in a qualitative way,” said Lauren Weinstein, an Internet privacy expert and co-founder of the People for Internet Responsibility. “E-mail, for instance, that is in the hands of an ISP typically has less protection than the same e-mail on your home computer.”

When consumers store data on devices in their home, Weinstein noted, law enforcement is generally required to obtain a search warrant, which requires presenting sufficient facts to a judge or magistrate to demonstrate probable cause for the issuance of the warrant. But data in the hands of a third party can be disclosed under a variety of other theories, some of them with lower standards of protection.

“Remotely stored information might be subject to a national security letter, for instance,”…

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