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Google's Desktop represents a privacy disaster just waiting to happen, a rival has warned. David Burns, Copernic CEO, says users should know that the giant ad broker intends to mix public and private queries in the future, leveraging its key moneyspinning product: contextual advertising.

"If you lined people and said, 'Stick your hand up if you want Google to know what pictures you have, and what MP3 files you have,' I don't think many would." Burns had offered these capabilities to partners before, but received some pushback.

"Major brands don't want to compromise their reputation. We've offered this in the past to potential partners, and had a major PC hardware company and major portals say 'No, we can't do this'", Burns told us.

With the subpoena-happy RIAA getting support from state law enforcement in its war on copyright infringers, Google represents a single point of compromise for millions of file traders.

Copernic offers a native Windows search application both as a free download and as a branded offering to partners, and has toyed with merging the two before. But it's realized personal archives are very different to Google's snapshot of the web - and the queries are different too.

"I don't deny desktop and web on the same page is attractive," he added. "But we're not going to do it."

Burns was former US chief of FAST, which created the All The Web search site before selling it to Overture. Yahoo! now owns both.

Google Desktop Search allows users to opt out of sending the company back detailed usage data, but it isn't possible to firewall it completely. Much more ominously, reckons Burns, Google's product manager Marissa Mayer said she expected the private queries to generate more hits for google.com. Most people, she believed, would choose to combine personal and web searches resulting in more revenue for Google's ad business.

"As a result, we will serve more Web results pages and more ads, and those ads have more chances of getting clicked on. So there will be incremental Web search revenue from this product," she told the Washington Post.

In January, Eric Schmidt said the company's goal was to create a "Google that knows you". With the addition of personal information, it's just taken a giant step towards that goal. ®

Related links

Copernic
Google Desktop

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