Not long ago, Google was the cuddly search engine that could. Now it's a bona fide data monster, and your personal information is its meat.
Google's pending acquisition of DoubleClick has shed new light on just how much data the G-men control, from search histories to e-mail, calendars, blogs, videos, and more. So notable is Google's stranglehold over personal data that even Microsoft claims to offer more privacy than Google, which is enough to tell you the universe has shifted.
The question is, What will Google do with this vast trove of information? Global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer points out that Google alone challenged the Department of Justice in January 2006 when the department demanded millions of search terms from the top four engines. And Google did voluntarily agree to anonymize the search data it retains after 18 months.
But privacy advocates are far from convinced. The next time everyone's favorite Uncle asks the company to display its assets, Google might not prevail. And if Google were ever acquired or chopped into bits, that data could be its most valuable commodity.
Worse, Google Desktop may represent a security risk to the data on your hard drive. In a Ponemon Institute survey of IT pros conducted in June, more than 70 percent believe Google Desktop is still vulnerable to cross-site scripting attacks.
The solution? Be very careful about how you use Google products. When in doubt, log out.