The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Gartner and I would assume others have issued proclamations that Google’s desktop search function to search across a network of computers is not safe – for security reasons – but also opens up a can of worms for government snooping.
The reason being that to “search across a network of computers”, the files on the remote computer are in fact uploaded to Google’s servers before the search can begin. Would you want your FILES on a public network? Google says the files are encrypted, but anything NOT on your computer is much more prone to be hacked OR subpoenaed by the government.
Information Week writes, about Gartner’s warning The feature enables people to share files in their computers. Google does this by storing index copies of the files on its server for up to 30 days. The information is encrypted, and computer users decide which files they want to share.
The problem with the feature, according to Gartner, is that employees are not always reliable in identifying documents that should not be shared. Such files could include those with regulatory or security restrictions, the researcher said.
EFF writes “Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google’s search logs, it’s shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers,” said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn’t even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants–your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whomever–could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files.”
Laplink writes about their solution – In April 2005, Laplink Software announced that their web-based remote access product, Laplink Everywhere 4, now included remote Google Desktop Search functionality, allowing users to quickly retrieve files and email from distant machines. Searches can even be initiated from a handheld device such as a PDA or Smartphone.
Unlike Google’s latest remote search feature, Laplink’s remote Google Desktop Search won’t trigger EFF alarm bells. All searchable data remains safely on the remote PC. Files are retrieved using a web interface, and streamed to the local computer via an encrypted channel. Once the files are retrieved and the remote session is terminated, no trace of it remains on the local device.
Laplink Everywhere’s remote Google Desktop Search feature does not require a client or application to be installed on the device that is remotely accessing the PC, and at no time is the content of your remote PC ever stored on a server or an external location.
PC users simply need to install Laplink Everywhere and Google Desktop Search on the PCs they plan to remotely access. Using 128 bit SSL encryption technology users can log into to their PC and remotely locate, open, and even forward any file on their desktop.