Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Time, Money and Resources

Google and the American Blind and Wallpaper Factory have settled the trademark infringement lawsuit. And then there is the article about news wires like the AP agreeing to license news feeds to Google.

All of this fits well with an article in The Economist: Who is Afraid of Google?

The answer seems to be no one. Google has demonstrated, on more than one occasion, it has enough time, money and resources to fight any and every lawsuit hurled at it. Google also has the time, money and resources to impose its will on governmental agencies, and play an increasingly larger role in the shaping of public policy to fit its own agenda, only under the guise of improving information flow for the masses.

There is its post on patent reform, its lengthy posts on the telecom spectrum, all of which sounds very much like running commentary on governmental policies that pertain to technology, except that the commentary is coming from a source that millions of people blindly trust.

This issue came up on the "L" ride home from class last night, and at a dinner party I attended over the weekend. My generation and younger have no qualms about freely posting information about ourselves to the Internet, or freely sharing information via searches with engines like Google. And, if you think about it, if you use any of Google's free services, Google has even more information about you. I have yet to read somewhere that says something along the lines of Google employees not being able to read your documents or your email or access Google Checkout account information.

Makes you wonder exactly what kind of security, if any, they use to monitor employees access to customer information, as it were. For all I know, a Google employee has been joyfully reading my email, and checking every so often to read the next chapter of my novel.

What it boils down to is that people in my generation and younger have decided to make a trade off: less control over personal information for convenient accessibility anywhere. Using something like Google Docs & Spreadsheets, or ZoHo (which actually has a much better interface, more options and is more user-friendly) gives me the convince of being able to work from any computer with a browser and an Internet connection, but in return, I have to provide what amounts to personal information to which ever online document client I choose.

With all the news in recent weeks about databases being hacked, such as Monster and Loyola University-Chicago, I wonder if a few of these aren't warm-ups, testing hacks to get at the wealth of information stored in search engines. Some might say no place is safe, and that it is only a matter of time.

Which makes you wonder, would search engines notify you of the possibility of compromised information, or are we really better off using Google Docs & Spreadsheets just to keep notes or reminders, and not to keep anything useful or important? Afterall, with Microsoft Word documents, you're major security concern is just your laptop, which is more often than not completely in your possession.

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