Thursday, March 19, 2009

Privacy group to FTC: Google's cloud is unsafe

A Washington-based privacy group wants the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation of the cloud-computing services offered by Google - including Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and others - to ensure that they are as secure as Google promises they will be.

Specifically, the matters stems from reports earlier this month that a software bug in Google Docs publicly exposed documents believed to be private. The company said the glitch affected one-half of one percent of the documents stored online.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center pointed out in its petition to the FTC that Google uses language in its marketing statements that suggest to users that their documents are safe and secure and that users can “rest assured that your documents, spreadsheets and presentations will remain private unless you publish them to the Web or invite collaborators and/or viewers.”

The group cites other security breach incidents involving Google, though none since January 2007, when a security flaw involving Google Desktop was found. The group notes that the matter becomes critical because cloud computing services are growing in popularity among both consumers and businesses, greatly increasing the potential for risk.

Google said the Google Docs problem earlier this month occurred in cases where people had chosen to collaborate on multiple documents and adjusted settings to allow access to others. Collaborators were unintentionally given permission to access documents aside from the ones intended.