Signing Away Your Rights with Google Chrome
People have referred to the Google Chrome browser as a cloud operating system, and that characterization seems accurate. For personal users running advanced Web apps and enterprise users accessing (or hoping to access) cloud services alike, this a promising proposition, no doubt. However, it’s not all roses: Google’s quest to store your personal data — and even to own content transmitted via Chrome — is a little troubling to me. In fact, these concerns mirror those skeptics are asking about cloud computing, in general.
- It’s minimalist. For those of us who hate working with aggressive, in-your-face interfaces, Chrome is the answer.In fact, it doesn’t even include the seemingly ubiquitous Windows menu bar.
- It’s cloud computing-ready. Not only does V8 promise better performance for Java-based cloud applications, but each tab opens in a “sandbox” model. This means that if a site or application crashes Tab A, Tab B (ostensibly running on its own VM) is not affected. So, if I’m taking a break from porting an application to EC2 or GoGrid (or doing any other cloud-based tasks) to do some nefarious Web surfing in another tab, my legitimate work won’t be for naught when the latter activity inevitably causes a browser freeze. This, in fact, is the very promise of multi-tenanted cloud architectures: your applications and your VMs are isolated from other users’, and whatever they’re doing won’t affect you at all.
The combination of sandbox tabs and better application performance is a great start if Google intends for Chrome to be the OS when, as some experts predict, all computing will be done via the Web.
- It’s new-fangled. Let’s be honest: we get used to things looking and functioning in certain ways, and change can be scary. For the time being, I think I’ll stick to Firefox and utilize Google’s suite of Web services via that browser.
- It’s advertising-focused. I keep my e-mails and my Web searches pretty tame, so I’m willing to put up with the targeted advertising (which I barely ever even notice) with GMail and Google Search. When it comes to my browser, however, I’m a little less welcoming of targeted advertising. Being a member of the publishing world, I understand that advertising pays the bills, but that doesn’t mean I want Google using, in any way, personal data that I did not specifically send across a Google service. The browser always has been a relatively neutral party in the Web experience, but no amount of Web history deletions will erase the stockpiles of personal data that Google has stored.
17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.
17.2 The manner, mode and extent of advertising by Google on the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you.
17.3 In consideration for Google granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Google may place such advertising on the Services.
- Google wants your intellectual property. Seriously. Here’s the clause:
One of the main concerns about cloud computing is that your data is being processed and, possibly, stored on someone else’s infrastructures. Users have to trust that the third party will not only keep that data safe from intruders, but also that the service provider will not access and use the data for its own purposes. Yes, these services likely have agreements stating they will do no such thing, but even planting the seed of such practices could make leery enterprises head right back for their own servers. To the extent Chrome is considered a “cloud operating system,” the notion of Google claiming rights over your content could cast a shadow over the whole universe, especially App Engine. And what if you use Chrome to do proprietary work in other cloud services? Can Google somehow assert rights over that content?
I know Google counts some smart lawyers among its ranks, but I sense some legal challenges on the horizon if this clause sticks around.