Do you use Google Search, Gmail, Google Docs or Google Drive?

Google is watching, always watching!

Google’s products are easy to use and helpful, e.g. Google Search, Maps, Docs, Drive and Google Apps for Education. The “free!” price makes Google solutions hard to resist for individuals, cities, towns and schools on limited budgets. It is important to understand Google’s commercial goals, however, to understand the full implications of this ‘free’ stuff. As my mother often said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

What you actually agree to with Google will probably be surprising. Did you know that you give Google a complete license to any document, photo or data you create, send, receive or store via Gmail, Google Docs and Google Drive? You also give anyone Google works with the same license -- meaning any company, person, organization or government.

Think about the implications for a minute. That business plan, spreadsheet, article or new product idea that you sent via Gmail? The intimate letter and photo to your husband/wife or girlfriend/boyfriend that you backed up on Google Drive? You gave Google (and anyone they work with) a complete, perpetual license.

'Free' definitely carries a price. For all of the details see the attached copy of our review, along with copies of the Google customer agreement and privacy policy.

This has become an important topic with the Town of Wayland and Wayland Public Schools -- which uses Google Apps for Education. Education Week recently discovered that Google was mining student emails, for example. We are coordinating with Education Week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Massachusetts ACLU to encourage Google to clarify their contracts and privacy terms. So far, three letters have been sent to Google via FedX, with no reply from any Google employee. We will keep you posted.

Google Terms of Service - 2.9.2016.pdf
Free solutions from Google - agreement review by MPP - v2c - 2.24.2016.pdf
Google_privacy_policy_en - 8.19.2015.pdf

Let us know if you have any questions:

Mark Hays
Wayland Computer Privacy Initiative