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Google Desktop Warning

In February 2006, Google released a new feature for their beta desktop search application that allows users to search their files, documents, emails, chat logs, and web history from any computer. This application makes searching your computer similar to searching on the Internet.

What are the risks?

The new feature, "Search Across Computers," poses a serious risk to your privacy. If you use this feature, any files that you access using Google Desktop will be copied and stored on Google's servers. This makes your personal information much more vulnerable to hackers. If your account with Google Desktop is not carefully configured, you can unknowingly transmit copies of your data that are stored on Google's servers. Simply uninstalling this program can leave your personal data on Google's servers for up to 30 days, plenty of time to be hacked.

In addition, Google can use your personal information for marketing purposes. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, "Google says it is not yet scanning the files it copied from your hard drive in order to serve targeted advertising, but it hasn't ruled out the possibility, and Google's current privacy policy appears to allow it."  So if you're not worried about hackers getting into your personal data, you should worry about Google letting it get out.

You should seriously consider the risk posed to your confidential information by this application before downloading it. If you currently use this program and are concerned about the security of your information, you can manually purge all of your data from Google's servers.

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