If one privacy group has their way, search giant Google will soon be under the looking glass of the FTC.
Whether some people realize it or not, Google has become an integral part of their lives. From its engine to web-based office software to advertising, Google has evolved from a small search site to a multi-faceted Internet juggernaut. Now, an Internet privacy group is challenging that juggernaut.
This past Tuesday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC (fantastic acronym) filed a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in relation to Google. According to EPIC, Google's cloud computing applications lack proper security measures, and the organization has asked the FTC to bar Google from offering any cloud applications or services until proper safeguards are put in place. Cloud computing services like Google Docs store documents and spreadsheets on a server controlled by Google instead of on a users computer. While tools like Google Gears can take that data and store in on a local machine, the entire premise of cloud computing is to offer services with little to no data storage costs to the consumer.
"We are highly aware of how important our users' data is to them and take our responsibility very seriously," said a Google spokesperson about the complaint to Reuters.
The specific incident which sparked the complaint from EPIC happened earlier this month. On March 7, Google revealed that a small glitch in its Docs cloud software caused some of its users to share their private documents with other users without warning. The bug affected less than one tenth of a percent of all documents and only affected those who had previously shared online documents with other users. "The Google Docs data breach highlights the hazards of Google's inadequate security practices, as well as the risks of cloud computing services generally," said Marc Rotenberg, Executive Director of EPIC.
EPIC is also faulting Google for not encrypting any documents that are sent and received. Instead, the service sends documents in plain text. Other Google programs included in the complaint are Picasa and Gmail. Previously, EPIC has filed complaints with the FTC against companies like Microsoft and Searchpoint in relation to their security standards and/or business practices.