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Privacy Police Want FTC to Investigate Google Cloud Services

EPIC accuses Google of unfair business practices and deceptive trade practices since Google claims that the services are safe

The Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation of Google's cloud computing services including Gmail, Google Docs, Google Desktop, Google Calendar and Picasa to determine "the adequacy of the privacy and security safeguards" and enjoin Google from offering them until they are.

It wants Google ordered to revise its terms of service, make its security policies more transparent, report all incidents of data loss and data breach to the FTC and kick in $5 million to a public fund to support research into privacy-enhancing technologies.

What got EPIC's lather up was the discovery a couple of weeks ago that Google's vaunted Google Docs service accidentally shared some users' documents with folks who weren't authorized to see them.

EPIC accuses Google of unfair business practices and deceptive trade practices since Google claims on its web site that the services are safe. It says Google knows the services are susceptible to data breaches and that it should use encryption instead of plain text.

Its 15-page complaint cites the growing dependence of American consumers, businesses and federal agencies on cloud computing services and says Google's data breach highlights the risks of cloud computing services in general.

The Google Docs Team said the glitch only happened "if you, or a collaborator with sharing rights, selected multiple documents and presentations from the documents list and changed the sharing permissions." And Google Docs product manager Jennifer Mazzon claimed that less than 0.05% of all the documents in Google Docs' custody were impacted.

Previous EPIC complaints have led the FTC to order Microsoft to revise the security standards of its old Passport widgetry and make Choicepoint, the data broker, change its business practices and pay $15 million in fines and restitution.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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