Strike three for Google?

Via MIT's Technology Review, there's reason to believe that the latest release of Google's popular Desktop Search software can easily pass on your private data to the feds under the Patriot Act. Google is swearing up and down that your data is encrypted and private, but after recent deals made with China (who said this week that their Internet restrictions are no different than our Patriot Act restrictions), I'm cringing.

The basic rundown of the scenario goes like this: an index of all of your data is created when you install Desktop Search, making it easy and fast for the searches to be performed. (For you Mac users, Spotlight does the same thing, but only on your own computer. The info isn't transmitted elsewhere.). In the new version of Google's software, there's a feature called "Search Across Computers." This allows power users with more than one computer to find data on any machine, but this is accomplished by uploading the indexes to Google's servers.

That's where it gets ugly. Under the Patriot Act, the government can come to Google and request those indexes, and Google would have to comply without telling you. Google swears that the data is encrypted and that unused indexes are destroyed after 30 days, and that users can protect sensitive data with settings within the software.

As a geek friend once said to me, though, any software "fix" can always be gotten around with another software fix. This doesn't bode well for the company whose motto is "Don't be evil." What gives, Google?

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