Another week, another Google assault on this world and beyond. The addition of Google Mars has kept the geeks happy, while the acquisition of online word processor Writely has fuelled the more mundane predictions of the arrival of Google Office and the ultimate demise of Microsoft.
Such thoughts are pleasant but otiose. With each new addition to the Google armoury, the company is repeating an error that has already done Microsoft much damage — and while Redmond has learned its lesson, Mountain View shows no sign of seeing the light. Adding features while ignoring security is a dangerous game.
By writing documents on Google's machines, you are significantly increasing the risk of compromise. True, Google may be a more reliable store than your local hard disk, but the online copies of your documents are only a password attack away from danger 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Add your email and search information, and what Google — and any successful hacker — knows about you becomes even more attractive.
What tools does Google provide to help us protect our data? No in-line encryption, no optional two-factor authentication, no reporting of failed log-ins — in short, nothing. That's irresponsible. While improved security can impact on convenience, that trade-off should be ours to make; a single password is massively inadequate.
It's fine for Google to continue to roll out new services, useful when they're online office tools, charming when they're interactive maps of distant planets. Yet the company would be doing itself and us a tremendous favour if it took time out to put some basic safety measures in place. If it lived up to its own hype and made its online security the finest on earth that would be a huge bonus, especially in the battle for corporate data management. But we can wait for that.
We cannot wait for Google to improve its basic protection, or an acknowledgment of its responsibilities to our privacy and security. Microsoft has been justly chastised for oversights here: Google cannot afford to make the same mistake. It's time for the company to come down to earth.