Google Drive Finally Announced; Why Its Terms of Service Are Really Not That Bad

Google Drive Finally Announced; Why Its Terms of Service Are Really Not That Bad

Apr 25, 2012

The worst-kept secret in technology, that Google would launch a Dropbox-esque cloud storage service, is finally a reality. Google Drive is coming soon, bringing 5 GB of free storage to users.

On the Android side of things, the Google Docs app has been replaced with Google Drive. As of now, it still has identical features to Google Docs, until the user’s account is approved, so don’t just download the update expecting to get instant access that way. Google’s smarter than that. We’ll have more on Google Drive and how it stacks up to the competition.

Some hysteria over Google Drive has come from concern over the Google terms of service and how it impacts users. Here’s a sampling of it, with the bolded part being the one most frequently referenced in tweets and articles seen about this.

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

When you upload or otherwise submit content to 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.

The bolded part is harrowing out of context, but the context of the sentences before and after it are what is truly important. While I am not a lawyer, many of these issues were raised when Dropbox had their kerfuffle over what their TOS gave them the right to do. Essentially, Google – or any service where user data is uploaded to the cloud – needs the right to store and move the data across their servers without needing explicit user permission. By claiming broad rights but narrow permissions as to what they will do with it, this means that they can do actions for the users without need permission for each individual action, optimistically to only benefit the user or through improvements to the service.

The stereotypical fear is that Google could take people’s photos or the things they write and store on Google Drive and then Google could sell them, as if there’s any evidence of them or any cloud storage service doing so on a widespread basis. The more grounded fear is that Google, being a company that makes its money off of data, is now trying to find a way to get its hands on more data from users, and they’re just going to hand it over. Analyzing and using that data to deliver more efficient advertisements may be the ultimate goal of Google here.

The thing about these concerns is that if they are rooted in a fear of Google indexing everything, it seems as if the time to start worrying about that would have been a long time ago, around when they actually started to, well, try and index everything. It’s hardly been a secret goal of theirs. Never mind that this is all really based off of the same terms of service that Google introduced earlier this year. It’s only now popping up because they announced a new service, and apparently the rights of cloud-based storage companies is a hot-button issue.

So I call on readers to respond in the comments: will the TOS keep you from using Google Drive? Do you agree that this is largely hysteria? Or is this a valid issue being raised? Or both?