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Google Drive Privacy Policy: Can Google steal your work?

Google Drive launched last week, giving us 5GB of free cloud storage space for our Google Docs, pictures and up to 30 file types from our laptops, PCs, Android and (eventually) iPhones and iPads.

However there is some concern and confusion over exactly what Google can and can’t do with files you upload.

Google’s Terms of Service, found in full here, states that:

“Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.

When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”

Google Drive Terms of Service: “What belongs to you stays yours.”

What does this mean in terms of copyright? Intellectual property is anything you create. Any poem, prose, article, report, photograph, picture or paragraph that you create is your intellectual property.

Google’s ToS here clearly states that you “retain ownership of any intellectual property rights,” so there’s nothing to worry about right?

While you retain intellectual property rights, you also grant Google “a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works.”

Ostensibly, this is to ensure that you’ll be able to access your work from anywhere in the world from Victoria, BC to Vladivostok hence the line on derivative works “such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services”.

Your holiday snaps are unlikely to end up as a Google Doodle. Any use of your work without permission would be a seriously bad PR move. 

Furthermore, anything like this behaviour is forbidden by Google’s own Privacy Policy which states:

“We use the information we collect from all of our services to provide, maintain, protect and improve them, to develop new ones, and to protect Google and our users. We also use this information to offer you tailored content – like giving you more relevant search results and ads.

We will ask for your consent before using information for a purpose other than those that are set out in this Privacy Policy.”

So while you don’t have to worry about Mountain View from appropriating your seven-volume steampunk opera, you may start to see adverts popping up for flight goggles.

Can Google target ads against the contents of my Google Drive?

Yes. But if you’re worried about this you can easily opt out. 

“We may combine personal information from one service with information, including personal information, from other Google services – for example to make it easier to share things with people you know. We will not combine DoubleClick cookie information with personally identifiable information unless we have your opt-in consent.”

If you’re signed in to your Google Account, head over here, scroll down to Opt Out and simply click the button.

To permanently stay opted out of the DoubleClick cookie, you can download plug-ins for Firefox, Chrome and IE.

When you factor in that in the US, the controversial Patriot Act means that the US Government can ask for access to your Drive without your permission or knowledge then things get a lot more scary. That laws for similar proposals are being drafted here in the UK ought to give anyone cause for concern.

As Google says, “what belongs to you stays yours.”

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