Google Desktop: Friend Or Foe? - InformationWeek

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Commentary
2/9/2006
04:54 PM
Tom Smith
Tom Smith
Commentary
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Google Desktop: Friend Or Foe?

In the small workgroup I've been a part of the last couple years, I've become somewhat notorious for the chronic loss -- or inability to retain -- E-mail messages and documents. I can almost hear the frustration running through the minds of others as I request -- on an almost daily basis -- yet another resend of a doc or message.

In the small workgroup I've been a part of the last couple years, I've become somewhat notorious for the chronic loss -- or inability to retain -- E-mail messages and documents. I can almost hear the frustration running through the minds of others as I request -- on an almost daily basis -- yet another resend of a doc or message.See if you can relate to my situation: you get copied on an endless series of E-mail strings, some that are marginally relevant to you, at the same time you're constantly bumping up against E-mail storage limitations that mean you need to do large-scale purging on a regular basis. Given the volume of E-mails, the number of meetings, and the regularity of interruptions, it's a real struggle just to detach or store critical E-mailed documents to your hard drive.

So for me, it's encouraging to see that Google continues to enhance its Desktop software program. I already use it on my personal system and hope to extend that use -- policies permitting -- to my corporate activities. Yes, I'm quite concerned about the prospect of personal information getting stored on Google computers, but there are obvious steps I can take to avoid that, such as taking off my PC any data -- such as financial account information -- that I wouldn't want to be accessible to the outside world. And, for all the concerns that get raised about Google and whether it's becoming the world's biggest snoop, its download page gives clear, explicit instructions for how to prevent Google Desktop from indexing and searching certain the data that you don't want it to. For many users, however, it's likely that won't be good enough and their privacy concerns -- specifically relating to the Search Across Computers function -- will outweigh the potential benefits. (For another view on the Google Desktop Search software, here's a compelling opinion from Preston Gralla of our Networking Pipeline site and yet another, more skeptical opinion worth reading.)

For me, my data storage is straightforward enough that I can excise or relocate the data that I wouldn't want Google to see. The real win, in my mind, is the ability to use the familiar Google search methodology -- the only one that's ever really worked in my case -- to search E-mails, documents, and other file types (the complete list of supported file types, notably excluding Lotus Notes, is here), and to locate them from multiple systems. That's a far cry from the excruciating process of trying to locate old messages in Notes, or locate documents among the hundreds I store in folders on my hard drive. I predict that a few months from now, some coworkers -- like me -- will be grateful for this latest rev of Google Desktop.

Meantime, there's a corporate angle to consider as well. Google Desktop does raise legitimate issues for some security/IT pros who fear the loss of corporate data through this system. Google offers an enterprise version of Google Desktop that lets admins control the level of freedom users have to share files within or outside their organizations. But is that enough to make your company take the plunge into Google Desktop? Please respond to our poll on this issue.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
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