Google’s Terms Of Service: We Can Do Whatever We Want

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From time to time it's instructive to look at an online company's Terms of Service (TOS) so you understand what you're agreeing to when you use it.  A look at Google's TOS is particularly timely because the Internet giant's legal beagles have revised it and the  new one takes effect on Monday.

Here's what they say about content you put on their services:

Some of our Services allow you to upload, submit, store, send or receive content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

That sounds pretty good at first blush.  It's yours and it stays yours — except for the fact what the first paragraph granteth, the next paragraph taketh.  To wit:

When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services…

In other words, Google claims the right to do whatever it wants with your stuff, even if you quit the service.

It's also interesting to note the substantial addition to the new TOS, which the Internet giant claims the right to change in the future on a whim.  Google  conveniently provides a marked copy that shows changes.  Here's the big addition:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.


There can be no doubt: Google snoops on everything you send them, as it makes its way through the Internet giant's computer systems and when it is stored in Google's cloud, so Google can build digital dossiers about you.  

You're not Google's customer; you're Google's product.  And, they claim the right to pretty much do whatever they want with with your stuff.

John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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