Feeds

Privacy watchdog barks for federal Gmail probe

The Google Cloud - Is it safe?

High performance access to file storage

An influential net watchdog has urged the US Federal Trade Commission to shut down Google's so-called cloud computing services, including Gmail and Google Docs, if the web giant can't ensure the safety of user data stored by these online apps.

With a petition (PDF) filed yesterday, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) called on the FTC to launch a formal probe of the Google cloud.

The Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit asked the trade commission to assess the privacy and security safeguards used by Google's online apps and determine whether the company has properly represented these safeguards. Worried that Google has engaged in unfair or deceptive trade practices, EPIC hopes the FTC will "take any such measures as are necessary, including to enjoin Google from offering such services until safeguards are verifiably established."

The petition was sparked, in part, by a Google snafu that saw the company inadvertently share certain Google Docs files with users unauthorized to view them. Google estimates that the breach hit about 0.05 per cent of the documents stored by the service.

"That's just what happened recently," EPIC's Marc Rotenberg tells The Reg. "There are very large issues...with cloud computing services, and what we're hoping will happen is the Federal Trade Commission will begin a process of looking at these services and some of the privacy and security riskes and what can be down to provide greater safeguards."

Rotenberg points out that EPIC had successful with a similar FTC petition it filed over Microsoft's infamous Passport service, the "single sign-on" system now known as Windows Live ID. "We challenged the idea that there should be a single authentication standard and the FTC looked at it and ultimately agreed with us - and Microsoft did as well, adopting an approach based on meta-identities.

"We think our latest petition can help elevate privacy and security standards for cloud computing services and that is our goal."

The EPIC petition says that Google "routinely" tells the world that its online apps are private and secure, citing the Google Docs home page as an example. The page says "Files are stored securely online" [Google's emphasis]. Then the petition argues that Google's terms of service "disavow any warranty or any liability for harm that result from Google’s negligence, recklessness, malintent, or even purposeful disregard of existing legal obligations to protect the privacy and security of user data."

It also points to several cases where Google or outside researhcers have discovered privacy and security flaws in the company's online apps, including the early March bug involving Google docs.

Google would not discuss the petition, but it did toss us the following canned statement: "We have received a copy of the complaint but have not yet reviewed it in detail. Many providers of cloud computing services, including Google, have extensive policies, procedures and technologies in place to ensure the highest levels of data protection. Indeed, cloud computing can be more secure than storing information on your own hard drive. We are highly aware of how important our users' data is to them and take our responsibility very seriously." ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
Singapore decides 'three strikes' laws are too intrusive
When even a prurient island nation thinks an idea is dodgy it has problems
Banks slap Olympus with £160 MEEELLION lawsuit
Scandal hit camera maker just can't shake off its past
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
US taxman blows Win XP deadline, must now spend millions on custom support
Gov't IT likened to 'a Model T with a lot of things on top of it'
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.