Google Wave Concerns

Google Wave Logo (c)Google, fair use assumed

Google Wave Logo (c)Google, fair use assumed

I remember when I tested Google Chrome for the first time, there was this tiny, unobtrusive checkbox saying something on the lines of “I agree that my usage data is transmitted to Google”. It was already checked, just for my convenience… I didn’t test Chrome for very long, you may imagine and I sure like anything unchecked that little box! Whilst Chrome is “only” monitoring your browsing habits, Google Wave will convert you into an open book that Google can read, copy and distribute freely…

So what is Google Wave?
In a nutshell (ya,ya, ya, I know that this is one of my favourite expressions, and? 😉 So, in a nutshell, Google Wave is a shared, real time, collaborative, web based application that aims to replace email, chat, social networking, wikis, documents, photo and video exchange, instant messaging and the like by combining them all in one single application, called Google Wave. It was first announced 28th May 2009, at the Google I/O Conference at the Moscone Center, San Francisco, USA. It is a project, not a finished product, that is supposed to be released publicly somewhen later this year (2009). I/O, btw, stands either for “Input/Output” or for “Innovation in the Open”, depends whom you are listening to…

How Google Wave works
All information is stored and accessed on a web server, users create so-called waves, hence the name, that contain and share multi media enabled information and connect with other applications like blogs and social networking sites. They are conversations and multi media documents at the same time. Everybody, that has access to the wave, the participants, can add, edit and delete content and also add, block and delete other participants. Waves are live and updated in real time on the participants screens and internet devices. They have a history and playback features to enable new participants to the wave to catch up with it or to answer the old question of “Who the h… did this?” If you want to sign up for the Google Wave Sandbox, just click! On your own risk, and please, before you get carried away, read the rest of this blog post.

Google Wave and Privacy Concerns
Remember the little word “ web based” in the previous paragraph? That is where the security and privacy concerns start kicking in. You use, or will use, better said, Google Wave from your computer BUT all information is stored on Google owned web servers, and they keep offline backups for an unknown amount of time.
At the moment it is not clear if there will be the possibility for companies and the like to run it on their own servers. But for the common internet user it means that Google, finally, gets all our information, nicely bundled, in one place. Information collected includes, but is not restrained to:  account activity, interaction with user interface elements and links, IP address, other log information, images, videos, stored messages, attachments, contact information, browsing and click behaviour and so on. Google could use the collected information not only to provide the said service and to backup your data, but also to adjust further services, like advertisement or to share this data with others.

The really scary part about this information collection is found in the Google Wave FAQ regarding
What will happen when you delete your Wave and or Google account?

“Any Waves which have other participants will to continue to exist in the Google Wave system, including all of the content that you provided in those Waves.  Any Wave for which you are the only participant will be deleted from the system within 60 days and may remain in our offline backup systems.” WOW! No word for how long they will remain in the “offline backup systems” and who will have access to them! In clear words, all what you put into a Google Wave, will be backed up for an unknown time and these backups are accessible to Google, its employees and everybody Google gives access to.

Who else has access to Google Wave Data
It doesn’t stop at Google, data might also be shared with the following entities: Businesses that are involved in running Google Wave, like hosting, internet providers, sub-contractors, developers of third party apps, etc. Law enforcement or others when Google believes that they are required by law to give them access. Everybody that is employed to enforce Google’s Terms of Service or policies, to protect Google or others against harm and many more that may have a  “good reasons” in Google’s eyes. In one word, Google keeps the right to share our data with everybody they deem appropriate. That refers to personal data, non-personal information may, additionally, shared with basically everybody.
Another privacy concern are the third party applications providers and developers. Each of them has their own privacy policy and it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the everyday user, to keep track of all the “watchers” of a wave. These third party applications might collect, share and re-distribute  data on their own account and might have full or limited access to all your Google account info, depending on the app used/ installed. As any wave participant can ad apps and extensions to the wave, one can imagine how difficult it is to keep track of privacy issues. Difficult? I would say nearly impossible!

Does Google Wave scare the hell out of me?
You bet it does, for several reasons:
Data Security, Google can be hacked, has happened before. For the latest story have a look at this Reuters article about Was Google hacked?
And also the fact that all this data is concentrated in one hand makes me shiver. In German we have a saying that “Knowledge is power.” The knowledge accumulated by Google gives them, and everybody associated with them, already an incredible power over everybody that uses the internet. How much more will that be the case when Google Wave keeps all data handy in one place? For Googles involvement with the American government, click the link.

Will I ever use Google Wave?
You bet also! I have already signed up – but and this is a huge BUT I will be very careful what kind of information I put into a wave. As they say, knowledge is power, knowledge about Google products is important to protect ourselves from the Big Brother Google and to limit its powers.

Google Wave Web Site
Google Privacy Center

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45 comments to Google Wave Concerns

  • It is all a very scary prospect, I agree with you on that. However I also must state that it is only a scary prospect when you assume that Google would have some underhand uses for your data. I’m sure they resent that people feel like that, and it is unfortunate that the services they offer require personal data to be held. They just simply wouldn’t work without it.

  • hospitalera

    @Ste
    Do you really think the world largest internet advertising company can resist to use all these data for their own benefit? Who is supervising Google? SY

  • @hospitalera
    I don’t honestly know the answer to that question. I wish I did, but I would like to think that Google, as big as they are, are already in a high enough position to not need to use this data to their benefit. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe we’ll never even find out…

  • hospitalera

    @Ste
    Might it be that you are a tiny bit too optimistic when it comes to the ethics of companies? The data amassed by Google so far, even without wave, is a goldmine of information — and money/ power. SY

  • Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Indeed, who will guard the guards? This is some scary ish you dropped here. They have been doing this for so long I think that we should be used to it already. Haha.

    I agree with you about using Google Wave but guarding the information you share. I might even try it myself although you really scared me with this post.

  • Hi Hospitalera,
    That’s a good question…and I’m not sure if I’ll use Google Wave or not. The program looks really neat, but the privacy issues are huge! Time will tell…I’m going to take a wait and see position.

    WBSD is almost here! Please visit http://sheroffthebeatenpath.blogspot.com for updates and the link list.

    This should be a fun one with the theme of food! Can’t wait to see what the posts will be like on Saturday!

    Have a great day,
    Sher :0)

  • hospitalera

    @Terry
    I spend some of the last days trying to find out who ‘watches/ guards’ google, but apart from a couple of private sites couldn’t find anything. Seems the data protection laws don’t apply to Google, SY

  • hospitalera

    @Sher
    I am ready to roll with WBSD 😉 SY

  • Hi, very nice post. I have been wonder’n bout this issue,so thanks for posting

  • I am totally opposed to collection and storage of this type of data especially as it can be linked back to the user. Governments could definitely demand these records from Google without probable cause; remember the illegal wire tapping and the by-passing of even the secretive FISA courts to fish for possible wrong doings of ordinary citizens. I for one am not going to willingly submit any information that I do not have to to an organization that will willingly provide it to satisfy the latest whim of a government. I do not see ANY benefit from this new Google application.

  • hospitalera

    @Rich
    I agree with you, the implications of what a government could do with this kind of information is frightening, Googlegate anybody? SY

  • Michal

    Wow, nice post! I’ve heard about Google Chrome’s tendencies to lock and secure private data, but this is too much.. I’m afraid though it will be more and more frequent in the next couple of years – the choice will not be “should I share this data?”, I think it will be more like “Who should I share my data with?”. Of course, even then there’s a threat that google will buy out/merge with companies that we previously trusted..

    Nice post. Keep up the good work!

  • OMG I watched a video introducing Google Wave, and I’m so excited about it! I am concerned about the data security, which I didn’t know about, but I’m really impressed by all of the innovations that they are planning on bringing to the table.

  • hospitalera

    @Michal
    But do we have a choice or get or data just shared without that we can do anything?

    @Chuggin
    I guess the guess that discovered radioactivity also were excited! SY

  • smith

    I really liked your blog! how can i follow the comments?

  • hospitalera

    You can subscribe to each blog post that you want to keep track of. Just scroll down, the option is below the comment field. SY

  • bookmarking

    National borders aren’t even speed bumps on the information superhighway

  • hospitalera

    @bookmarking
    There are other speed bumps out there 😉 SY

  • Steve@ Acai Nutraburst

    This sounds dangerous to me. I am all set with my browsing history and interests being public domain for the entire Internet. Granted people can find me online and figure out what I am into, but it’s a horse of a different color when my information is funneled to random businesses who are running the apps.

  • hospitalera

    @teve from SAcai Nutraburst
    You are right, I am a big fan of Google in other aspects of their work, but not when it comes to privacy issues and concerns, SY

  • Being able to have access to my computer does worry me for sure. Anyone can see the IP address of a user, which is not a big deal at all. I am just worried about people hacking google, like you stated in the post. I think this would be a huge motivator for those hackers to try get back into google. But, I will definitely be using Wave after a few months of it opening to make sure Google has everything to stop those attacks. Very nice read!

  • hospitalera

    @Matt
    Yes, the idea that somebody succeeds in hacking his way in the Google database frightens me. There is simply far too less information around how Google protects the collected data. SY

  • Tim

    Google Wave will be the start of something huge in the world of personal computing. Google rarely gets it wrong and there is no reason to suggest they will here

  • hospitalera

    @Tim
    Google gets a lot of things wrong, in the end it is only people working there, not Superman 😉 And what about the privacy concerns? SY

  • “Any Waves which have other participants will to continue to exist in the Google Wave system, including all of the content that you provided in those Waves. Any Wave for which you are the only participant will be deleted from the system within 60 days and may remain in our offline backup systems.”

    This is very scary. its also the way of the information technological age. I never used to read the fine print or watch for check boxes until most freeware started including all types of tool bars and extra software I wasn’t interested in. Im glad you pointed this out with the Google Wave. I might have by passed it during the install. Thanks for the heads up.

  • hospitalera

    @JT
    Yes, and check also Google Chrome, in case you use it. Google might have “Don’t be evil.” as an unofficial motto, but that doesn’t include “Don’t use your users data.” Best way to protect your data privacy is still not to give it to anybody, SY

  • NeoplasmSix

    For all of those concerned what google would do with your data .. be warned Google executives are recent attendees at the Bilderberg meetings..

  • hospitalera

    @NeoplasmSix
    Can you elaborate a bit more? I googled (sic!) the term but don’t understand really why this is important?! SY

  • There was a recent post @ SEOMoz about how your personal data is not entirely personal, quite a good read. I think Wave is a cool idea – but it does scare me. Similar to cloud computing – your life in their hands (from a data point of view). Quite a large organisation around where I live when totally cloud, so some people believe in it whole-heartedly, for the brave only!

  • hospitalera

    @ Marc
    You mean cloud computing as in “everybody in the cloud can access my computer”? Brrr, what a nightmare! Can you post the link to the post you mentioned, I would be interested! SY

  • I think the concerns are misplaced. Remember when Gmail first came about, people were at Google’s throat asking how can Google read our mails and post contextual ads.

    In this case, you have to know that cloud is the future of the web and technology. You can’t be apprehensive about Google reading your information as long as it is secure from third parties
    .-= Anand@Google Wave Tricks´s last blog ..Beware of Cross Gadget Security Exploit in Google Wave =-.

  • hospitalera

    @ Anand
    No, I don’t think so, you state yourself “as long as it is secure from third parties” but if you read carefully through my article you see how widely content is shared amongst Google and its partners. SY

  • Hospitalera,

    When I mentioned “as long as it is secure from third parties”, I meant it in reference to a recent technical glitch that was spotted on Google wave and which is being addressed by Google.

    But with reference to your article, I am sorry that you have not exactly understood how the third parties operate..The gadgets that you incorporate on Google wave are done with the help of iframes – which is much similar to the Google ads that we have on our websites. Third parties can only access those information that we provide to them (like, say a gadget to read your Facebook feeds from wave) or what is available on the API.

    Google has recently launched Google dashboard (http://google.com/dashboard/ ) where you can see what information about is exactly available to Google.

    Additionally, the Google wave is only a platform. Enterprises may incorporate their own security layer over it in order to mask information that Google themselves may access..This was recently done by Novell for their customers.

    So, all in all, I would say, the fears are pretty much exaggerated and misplaced.
    .-= Anand@Google Wave Tricks´s last blog ..Beware of Cross Gadget Security Exploit in Google Wave =-.

  • hospitalera

    @ Anand
    Lets agree to disagree, but I would recommend, if you don’t know it already, to have a look at this wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Google I will remain very careful which information I give any Google service, but that is just me 😉 SY

  • There are even theories that Google wants to take over the world!!! While this is too far-fetched, I do agree that they are indeed collecting a whole lot of information, which in my opinion, are not quite required. It goes against the right of users to browse for information without giving out any information about themselves without their consent. While I agree that installing this would be a consent, there is no way of using the application without consenting at all…

  • hospitalera

    @ Maurice
    I agree with you, Google is becoming far to powerful in the information sector, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? SY

  • G. Brown

    Great article… The privacy issue is one thing, but what about the fact that my email I intentionally sent to one person is now made immediately ‘public’ to everyone they know very easily… The BBQ invite example is nice, but what if I say “well, I’d like to go but John will be there.” and that information now becomes shared with loads of other people and a blog.. maybe 1-to-1 email isn’t a bad thing after all? I guess I just have to be careful what I write on a wave eh?

  • hospitalera

    @G. Brown
    Been there, done that and got the t-shirt 😉 Not in Google Wave, but with hitting “reply to all” instead of replying only to the sender 😉 SY

  • Aditya

    Awesome content. I have been visitng your blog for sometimes now and now I think it is time to add it to my bookmark list. However, the theory that Google wants to take over the world seems quite absurd.

  • hospitalera

    @Aditya
    The internet world for sure 😉 SY

  • […] am still new at Google Wave and there is probably a lot I missed (there are security concerns about it too), but what I learned seems to indicate Google Wave offers a lot for those doing grassroots […]

  • I agree that we have to be very careful these days where we put information for us. Especially when we are so tight to google – gmail, search, wave, documents, chrome browser…. and many mother services that all link to the same company. I agree that all of those services are absolutely free, so they might have some advertisement plans in order to make profit.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Yahoo Search Provides Filter Options =-.

  • […] any new application there are always questions, problems, and issues. Here is a link, Google Wave Concerns, explaining some of the bigger concerns and questions users have been having with Google […]

  • As a few are saying here, I’m not sure I like the prospect of Google pretty much owning all my data. Although, this seems to be going to happen anyway (I have an Android OS phone, they get a lot of info about me from there).

    However, I notice that this poast is over a year old and I haven’t heard much about Google Wave since. Did it just die a death?