Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Google Docs Glitch That Locked Out Users Underscores Privacy Concerns

Maya Salam, New York Times:

Google Docs threw some users for a loop on Tuesday when the service suddenly locked them out of their documents for violating Google’s terms of service. The weird part? The documents were innocuous. The alerts were caused by a glitch, but they served as a stark reminder that not much is truly private in the cloud.

[…]

“Obviously this is raising questions in a lot of people’s minds about the level of surveillance in internet tools, like cloud-based tools,” Rachael Bale, whose tweets gained traction, said on Tuesday.

Ms. Bale, a reporter for National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch, said that while what happened was “problematic,” she was not too taken aback. “We know Google has access to all kinds of information about us,” she said, adding that professionally, she avoids using Google Docs for “anything sensitive.”

Bale is like so many others; she seems totally okay with the idea that Google knows a lot about us. Here’s the thing: we’re not very good about understanding what information is sensitive and should be withheld. Because so much of the web is either part of Google, funded by Google, or at least tracked by Google, the amount of data they collect on us individually is unfathomably great. Collectively, that’s likely far more dangerous than any single piece of “sensitive” data they might possess.