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Google And Security Pass In The Night

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Organizing all the world’s information may be a noble goal, but a couple of prominent blog voices wonder if past security concerns could bode poorly for adoption of Google applications.

"They are more like us than anyone else we have ever competed with."
-- Bill Gates on Google, from a 2005 Fortune Magazine interview

The temptation of free Google applications, like Docs & Spreadsheets, Calendar, Gmail, and Groups, offers a small budget organization a number of useful tools available anywhere with an Internet connection. Google would store data in those applications in its substantial databases.

That scenario may give some prospective users pause, a surprising thought considering the heavy usage and trust people put in Google’s search results. Michael Arrington at TechCrunch speculated on what could possibly go wrong in the Google-centric model:

The fact that unauthorized document access is a simple password guess or government “request” away already works against them. But the steady stream of minor security incidents we’ve seen (many very recently) can also hurt Google in the long run. Running applications for businesses is serious stuff, and Google needs to be diligent about security.

Google product teams work in cells, which allows them to quickly launch and iterate products. However, there could be a disadvantage to this as well with regard to security, as their does not seem to be one central policy or security group ensuring strict compliance across the entire company.


It would be odd, in the age of Sarbanes-Oxley, for Google not to have a formal security policy that is uniform to their operations in place. I’ve written a small number of policy and procedure documents in my previous techie life, and conformity to make SOX auditors happy was very much the driving concern for that joyous assignment.

Danny Sullivan addressed some of Arrington’s concerns, and listed a few Google security problems that Arrington missed. He took Google’s handling of Blogger to task, too:

The repeated problems with Blogger security are becoming absurd. Three strikes on their own blog? But Mike, some perspective is probably in order.

Accidentally released Platypus? Sounds like Philipp has a contact at Google that leaked it to him. I suppose that’s a security issue, but it’s not really a user security issue. Lumping it in there doesn’t feel fair.


Sullivan also wondered what the long-term impact of other incidents could be for Google:

Some of the other items are iffy on the user security side. They left stuff in a Writely doc, similar to how they left stuff in that analyst presentation a few months before. Sloppy, yes. Security breach, no. Worthy of concern? Yes, because sloppy there could mean sloppy elsewhere.


Both bloggers mentioned Microsoft, and compared Google’s potential for needing to fight security battles with those Microsoft has been engaged in for years. When Bill Gates said Google was the competitor most like Microsoft that he’d ever seen, he may have been more right than he realized.


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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Google And Security Pass In The Night
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