Does Google own your content?

The privacy and content policies for Google Applications give Google full rights to use your content however it wants. If you aren't nervous, you should be.

This is something that I hope isn't true, but Josh Greenbaum reports that the contract governing Google Apps gives Google ownership of all content/data that goes into the Apps. I am a lawyer, but I don't want to believe the words I'm reading and am trying to find an alternative rendering of the language to make Google seem less grasping.

At first, everything is fine:

Google claims no ownership or control over any Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services. You or a third party licensor, as appropriate, retain all patent, trademark and copyright to any Content you submit, post or display on or through Google services and you are responsible for protecting those rights, as appropriate.

But then something very troubling hits:

By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, modify, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google reserves the right to syndicate Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services and use that Content in connection with any service offered by Google.

I don't like this. Not one bit. Google's applications are intended to make information available "to the public." The minute you share, I would argue, you've crossed that line. And that's when the user's rights evaporate....

For the purpose of "promoting Google services" is too broad--it gives Google way too much wiggle room. And then the follow-on sentence, reserving the right for Google to use one's content for other Google services...I like that even less.

Reading the company's data privacy policy doesn't remediate the above. It leaves a gaping hole for Google to drive its privacy invasion "truck" through.

One of my biggest problems with any proprietary content management system, and particularly Microsoft's Sharepoint, is that it locks a customer's content into the vendor's system, effectively making the vendor, not the user, the owner of the content. I had never thought Google would assume control of its customers' content, as well. But that is what its agreement says.

Are you scared?

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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