- public disclosure of confidential information;
- loss of rights to proprietary materials and intellectual property; and
- actions employees take even when unauthorized or against company policy.
The desire for beauty and simplicity may be one driver for Google’s new policy. But there are plainly other motivations at work. Google wants your data. Indeed, no person, whether an individual or a body corporate, should expect to retain control over personal information or content provided to or stored with Google.
But businesses have special risks of potentially catastrophic exposure. Under Google’s new policy, even employees’ unofficial or unauthorized use of Google services could compromise confidential information and important intellectual property rights.
In fact, businesses should make clear to employees that Google services (and probably many other cloud services) may not be used on behalf of the business, or for business purposes. Why? Because, according to Google, “If you are using our Services on behalf of a business, that business accepts these terms.” Not only that, when you “upload or otherwise submit” content to Google, you give Google “a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works . . ., communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”
Google’s new policies present a host of other concerns. For example, Google tells you that it is presenting a unified, simple policy for all of its services, but then walks it back: specific services may have specific policies associated with them. Even if you get past your discomfort with Google’s new policies, you may be subject to other policies for certain services that make you even less comfortable. And here I will stop; what should be apparent is that use of Google’s services for business purposes presents a minefield.
Google’s services are free, and they work well. Google offers a bargain that may make sense for many individuals. But businesses need to guard against the real risk that use of Google will mean losing control of key secrets and intellectual property. Consider whether you need to instruct your employees to forego use of Google web services, and maybe even enforce these policies by restricting corporate access to Gmail and other Google services, as some companies already do. Unfortunately, in the digital age, sometimes the draconian policy is the common sense policy.