Shut Down Google Docs, Advocacy Group Tells FTC

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is calling for a federal government investigation of Google’s privacy safeguards. The group is reacting to the accidental sharing of some users’ Google Docs information in March.

The bug affected users who previously shared documents with other users. About .05 percent of all Google Docs were involuntarily shared during the security breach.

Glitch Fixed, Complaint Remains

The glitch has been fixed, but the Washington DC-based EPIC filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission days after the breach, blaming Google’s “cloud computing” services for the problem because Google stores users’ data on the company’s servers instead of users’ personal computers.

The complaint asked FTC to ban Google from offering cloud computing services such as Google Docs until the company puts additional security safeguards in place to prevent another accidental sharing of user information.

‘Baseless’ Beef

Daniel Castro, a policy analyst for the Washington, DC-based Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, says the request goes over the line and could hinder innovation.

“The complaint by EPIC about Google’s cloud computing service is baseless,” Castro said. “Software bugs are simply a fact of life. It is unreasonable to hold any company to an unattainable standard of perfection.

“The public benefits from innovative product sand services,” Castro added. “Attempts to attack these companies simply hurt the kind of innovative businesses we should be supporting in the [current] economy.”

Backlash for EPIC?

Sonia Arrison, a senior policy expert for the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute, said EPIC’s complaint may backfire on the group.

“EPIC’s reaction to the Google Docs bug was overkill and harms their credibility,” Arrison said. “There are 26 million people using Gmail, yet EPIC thinks that it is reasonable to cut off all those people’s email service just because there was a small bug in Google Docs that got fixed? That is a completely inappropriate response and would punish consumers just as much as [it would hurt] Google.

“The fact is that software is not perfect, and sometimes things will go wrong,” Arrison continued. “When they do, customers expect the problem to be fixed quickly, which is exactly what happened. The Google Docs bug is a success story. The EPIC reaction proves why Americans shouldn’t want bureaucrats to have ultimate control over these issues.”

Aricka Flowers ([email protected]) writes from Chicago.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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