The G Drive TOS critics need to shut up

The G Drive TOS critics need to shut up

Summary: G-Drive comes with Google's standard and blanket TOS. But why are so many people bleating about this without seemingly understanding what is involved? Put up and shut up I say.

TOPICS: Google

I am not a fan of Google's Terms of Service aka TOS. I never have been. But the amount of verbiage recently devoted to this topic is not only missing the point, I believe it is counter-productive. Here's the back story.

In August 2007 I wrote:

Google is the new evil empire – but now I really am beginning to believe it. I know that user agreements are typically ignored by most users, but anyone in the corporate world who ignores this risks seeing their IP in a Google marketing campaign, or worse.

He’s [Josh Greenbaum] right. As I’ve said before, Google’s terms of service need updating. Like Josh, I’m not a practising lawyer though I spent enough time arguing tax cases to know a mess when I see it.

It took Google a full four plus years to come close to remedying the situation through what are now its unified TOS. But even they are not to everyone's taste. Now we have G-Drive, Google's Dropbox clone and with it? The same blanket TOS that are being applied to all Google Apps.

Our own Ed Bott weighs in extensively on the topic here and here. Ed's not a lawyer, neither am I but it doesn't prevent us from being annoyed at things we think invade our privacy or which mess with what we believe to be our inalienable rights.

Nilay Patel has a crack at the topic - he is legally trained but not a practicing IP/copyright lawyer. He concludes:

Contracts are meaningful and important, but even the most noble promises can easily be broken. It's actions and history that have consequences, and companies that deal with user data on the web need to start building a history of squeaky-clean behavior before any of us can feel totally comfortable living in the cloud.

I get that. But what does 'squeaky-clean' mean? I have no idea because he doesn't explain other than to say:

What's most important is how much trust you're willing to give companies like Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Dropbox as more and more of your data moves to the cloud.

I get that as well. But that's almost the last thing on my agenda. When assessing any service the FIRST thing I want to know is whether it is fit for purpose. I'm a long time Dropbox user and I may yet try out G-Drive. But I know that service has plenty of practical wrinkles that would prevent me from recommending it as a service in mixed PC/Mac environments. I suspect the same will be true for G-Drive but for different reasons.

Martijn Linssen attempts to provide answers, implying that functionality comes first but that Google might try to preface its TOS with some plain English. That wont work because whatever language is used in a contract is a part of the contract and therefore open to the same degree of interpretation as any other part. That's the problem with contracts as anyone who has been involved in a dispute knows.

How many time have you said: 'But I didn't mean that' or 'But I didn't know it might mean that?' It's happened to me on many an occasion. It is one reason why negotiating contracts is such a pain in the ass.

Martijn makes a point that's hard to disagree and upon which I believe we should be concentrating our attention:

Listen, Google: you got to change. Abandon the path of copying what the competition invented earlier, mixing that with all you have, and presenting that on a silver plate as a finished product that is frozen stiff.

Study the product-cycle, watch some striptease vids, learn how to lure and bait, skim the market layer by layer, piece by piece, and control yourself - don't give it all away mere seconds after you've made an entrance.

You're in the fast-fashion business whereas you should be in the slow-fashion one, dear Google. You have the money, the power and the glory to walk the catwalk - and keep or push every one else out. But when was the last time you did that?

Google has a long history of throwing things over the fence, seeing what sticks and then retiring that which doesn't take. It's a classic, new age 'fail fast' outfit. G-Drive may yet be another. We'll see, though the indications from Android Market...err...Google Play are that at least 10 million people at least want to try it out. That's a lot of market share in one day.

So please, if you like what Google delivers but do not like their TOS, toss a coin and either go elsewhere or put up and shut up until the people that Google DOES listen to - the regulators - get their claws into the company. It will happen soon enough.

By all means raise the issues but can we please have a little less hysteria and emotional appeals to fairness and more sober reflection of what we're actually doing here? As I said on Twitter, we're at the very early stages of seeing and using cloud storage. It will be a large industry. If anyone thinks they've got the lock on how contracts should be phrased then I would suggest they're living in La-La land. As Patel points out, the TOS all attempt to do what the vendor wants but I don't believe we have a full understanding of how to translate our needs into terms that can yet be parsed against the vendors' needs. That's always a game of give and take to which the vendors will (eventually) pay attention.

If it is our data and we choose to use services like G-Drive, Dropbox et al then it is our responsibility to assess whether the terms are those with which we can live. No lawyer can help us except to point out the addressable risks. Assuming they themselves understand and from what little I know, that knowledge is thin on the ground. It is a reflection of the state of the art.

Instead, I suggest that people considering this style of service FIRST go through the process of assessing their storage needs, ask themselves about the advantages they (might) get form cloud services, assess current, mid and long term requirements and THEN look at the TOS. Bleating about it after the event doesn't cut any ice. At least not with me.

Topic: Google

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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  • Doesnt matter what the service does for me if all my docs become usable by

    google for what ever they want. Thats a non starter. MS doesnt do that and their drive service is cheaper. And a higher free limit too.
    Johnny Vegas
    • They are all the same wrt data "ownership"

      If you look, you will find equivalent statements in the SkyDrive ToS. One of the Ed Blott posts linked to in the article contains a collection of these for a number of services.

      There may be reasons to prefer SkyDrive to Google Drive, but it's not this aspect of the ToS. They are all saying the same (innocuous) thing.
      • There's one problem!!!!

        Microsoft doesn't have the scummy history Google has of collecting people's private data and doing all sorts of things with it. So regardless of the TOS, Microsoft is far less likely to keep a database of people's personal data to use for various reasons.
  • Google is

    Advertising scum, no better than most advertising hucksters out there yet, people keep jumping on the google is free bandwagon and have no understanding of how much of their data is being mined by google.
  • Maybe that would that be the last thing on your agenda

    but maybe for others it's the first thing.

    You can't just tell people to "shut up" because since it's not important to you, that it shouldn't be important to them. It's like gowing through the time and effort to get an appartment, only to find out at the very end that it comes installed with cameras for the landlord's viewing pleasure.
    William Farrel
  • Google drive is BS

    How can google claim that If I upload my own copyrighted material to G drive, then they own a licence???? Only idoits will use such a service.
    • Have you read all the facts?

      Have a look at this:

      Not 100% ideal, but it's not as bad as some bloggers would have us believe.
      • Disclaimer doesn't prevent G exposing, and prevents exclusiveness FOREVER

        That article left out some very important info.

        The G ToS confers a PERPETUAL licence for Google to use your data. That AUTOMATICALLY will prevent you licensing your content to anyone else EXCLUSIVELY. For example, you may use it to store a master music track you've created. By the ToS, you cannot sell the track to a music label for exclusive distribution anywhere in the world. No other cloud claims perpetual licence.

        The other clouds claim that they do whatever they do to ONLY to provide the services you request. G's ToS offers no such curtailment of scope on their usage. G can include and display your info as part of their searches. Nothing in the ToS prevents them doing that FOREVER.

        The law is not obtuse when the contract wording is clear. However, different jurisdictions may limit the effect of such clauses. I suspect that Google has just crossed the line that may wake up a few pollies.

  • Get a life

    I do not understand what all the fuss is about. I have been using google docs for the last two year and insync until yesterday. I scan and upload all my documents and use it as my office application. Why? I am more afraid of a system crash and the pain of getting all my data back than of a couple of adverts, which I do not see any more anyway, because google do not put them in your face.

    I do not care if google see my tax returns, corresponds, invoices, they would even bore me to death. Why, because I have nothing to hide. And ever if I had a TrueCrypt vault in the cloud would do the trick.

    I was waiting for the cloud since Sun announced the NC in the last millennia, now I can get on with what is more important to me. Productivity.
    • But if you have clients, they may not like loss of essential copyrights

      You can decide whatever you want, and Google can post your tax info in their search results!

      If you have any clients, they may not appreciate that you have lost their exclusive copyright in their documents if you put them in your G-Drive. They may be especially irate if their confidential data ends up in a competitor's search results.

      You are a fool, and I hope no-one trusts you with their data.
  • No way

    "So please, if you like what Google delivers but do not like their TOS, toss a coin and either go elsewhere or put up and shut up until the people that Google DOES listen to - the regulators - get their claws into the company. It will happen soon enough."

    If you think we should tolerate exploitation, that Governments are in control of global corporates and everything's going to work out fine and dandy ... then I think you are either biased, bought or stupid.

    Consider your post entered in my 'worst of ZDNET 2012'.

    Please take your own advice and shut up.
    • Regulators won't do anything unless people speak up...

      "So please, if you like what Google delivers but do not like their TOS, toss a coin and either go elsewhere or put up and shut up until the people that Google DOES listen to - the regulators - get their claws into the company. It will happen soon enough."
  • Really?

    What are you, like 10 years old? Using the term "shut up" in your title completely removes any shred of credibility you have/had.

    Before clicking the link I would have sworn this was an SJVNN post, and BTW, that is NOT a compliment!
    • ROFLMAO...

      I rolled my eyes when I saw the title, because I was thinking... GREAT ANOTHER RETARDED POST FROM SJVN. I clicked it just to see if I was right... FAIL :(
  • Was the headline writer drunk?

    "can we please have a little less hysteria and emotional appeals"

    It would seem that's the best line in the piece and applies about as much to this article as to the comment being criticized. Telling people they shouldn't analyze an agreement and share their analysis--even if you disagree or a lot of people disagree--doesn't make sense. If we were all alike, they wouldn't need all of us.
  • talk about bleating sheep... don't have to use google if you don't want to.