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They Could Own Your Content: Google Chrome

Many enterprises have been looking at services from Google, Yahoo and others as they move to Unified Communications (UC). Did the EULA also cover phone calls, Instant Messaging, voice, video and web conferencing? Theoretically, Google would be able to sell all information, including trade secrets and personal data, to anyone if the user agreed to the EULA. As you will see later, all of this content would have been included.

The next issue is the storage and retrieval of this content. Once collected, couldn't the government now subpoena this information? Couldn't the content also be susceptible to hackers and cyber criminals if the Google storage systems could be compromised?

Here's the background on these issues:

Google Chrome was announced September 2, 2008 to a number of very favorable reviews. It is an open source web. browser. The name comes from chrome, the graphical user interface frame of web browsers. The Microsoft Windows beta version of Chrome is available in 43 languages. The Mac OS X and Linux versions are not yet available but are in development. There is a comic book explanation, drawn by Scott McCloud, of the new Chrome browser.

However, by September 3, there was considerable web traffic about section 11 of the EULA. The EULA as initially presented gave Google unprecedented access to and control of the information/content that was generated by any user. Think of this in the context of internal business or government applications. Think of the employee that did not read the EULA and the havoc it could cause the employee's organization. Surprise, by late September 3, Google changed its policy.

The original section 11 policy (with italic portions that were most troubling) read as follows:

11. Content license from you.

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.

Google rapidly changed section 11 to read:

11. Content license from you

11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

So here's the bottom line on the issues at stake here:

Outside services such as those provided by Google and Yahoo are attractive because they are available to a wide range of organizations and can produce compatibility among independent enterprises and organizations.

I think it worthwhile to review and probably consider this new browser. But I think the original section 11 of the EULA serves as a warning, a big warning, that enterprises and government MUST control the use of new browsers. This is to ensure that the new browser use policies do not conflict with the internal security, privacy and compliance policies of the organization. The new browsers could easily sneak into the organization. Do you ever read the use policies of any software licenses or service provider? Get your legal department to review the EULAs BEFORE implementing any new browsers.