Is Google Protecting Your Privacy?

Critical, confidential information like your customer list is your lifeline in business. You would do everything you can to safeguard it. Yet, in our increasingly social, Web-connected world, keeping your information private goes against Google’s interest in indexing everything for search. After all, 96% of Google’s business is advertising and the Google Apps Service Level Agreement for its business users cites only eight of Google’s online services as “Google Apps Covered Services”.


While Google Apps for Business can turn off ads and has a different privacy protection than some of Google’s other services, business users often find themselves using Google “freeware”. They may use services that are not part of Google Apps, using Google Plus, Gmail Voice or Google Video Chat to reach people, and use Google Cloud Connect to accomplish tasks, while Google collects and shares information about them in the process.

In fact, the “Privacy and Terms” link at the bottom of the Google Apps for Business Web page leads prospective business customers directly to Policies and Principles. Under a Google Plus icon it cites:

Easy to work across Google. Our new policy reflects our desire to create a simple product experience that does what you need, when you want it to. Whether you’re reading an email that reminds you to schedule a family get-together or finding a favorite video that you want to share, we want to ensure you can move across Gmail, Calendar, Search, YouTube, or whatever your life calls for with ease.”

The user experience that the company advocates for Google Apps for Business customers brings them to services such as Google Plus and YouTube, where the company collects information about activities that they can then use to serve ads.

Google can use your content freely.
Why do I say that?  According to ZDNET and Google’s terms of service which also applies to Google Plus:

“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 that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

According to Neowin in “Comparing Skydrive and Google Drive's privacy policy”:

“There is one notable difference, with SkyDrive, Microsoft will only use your content "solely to the extent necessary to provide the service" which means that it is used to maintain the product, not for advertising purposes. When you upload your content to Google, you are giving them access to use your work however they see fit. It should be noted that neither service is claiming ownership of your content. It is a small but notable difference. Google already uses your content in many ways to deliver targeted advertising and Microsoft has a position of letting you decide what to do with your content. Which is best for you? That's a personal decision.”

You Are the Judge for Your Business.
In the news, Google May Face Further U.K. Action After FCC Privacy Report, Bloomberg cites:

"While Street View cars photograph buildings and homes to provide street-level mapping to Google users, they went beyond that to using wireless connections to gather people’s personal communications.”

Is a company which is under scrutiny in two continents for such actions, one you would trust with your business information? 


Comments (24)

  1. Anonymous says:

    @Derik: Office 365 is very clear on its privacy policy ( It is interesting that you try to defend Google’s privacy practice when it is a known fact that Google is under EU and Antitrust reviews.

    @Joseph: You have misinterpreted the scan for SPAM content. Office 365 does scan for anti-virus and anti-spam protection, as it should. Customers’ data belongs to customers. Check out Office 365 policies and the ways that you can retain your data: (

  2. Anonymous says:

    @Derik:  Microsoft is very public about the need for privacy.

    Yes, of course Microsoft complies with local laws. In fact, ZDnet ( cited:

    “If a governmental entity approaches Microsoft Online Services directly for information hosted on behalf of our customers, [Microsoft] will try in the first instance to redirect the entity to the customer to afford it the opportunity to determine how to respond…and will use commercially reasonable efforts to notify the enterprise customer in advance of any production unless legally prohibited.”…  “I must say, a personal and heartfelt congratulations to Microsoft — in full sincerity — for being as open, honest and transparent in their documentation.”

    According to news on Friday, Microsoft Does the Right Thing with Default “Do Not Track” for the desktop. (

    In the cloud, not only does Microsoft  communicate regularly about privacy (, and summarize its practices (, it demonstrates leadership in  privacy ( Microsoft’s cloud privacy practices for its productivity service ( are:

    1. No Advertising: Office 365 does not build advertising products out of customer data. We don’t scan your email or documents for building analytics, data mining, advertising, or improving the service.

    2. No Mingling: Office 365 always allows you to keep your customer data separate from consumer services.

    3. Data Portability: Office 365 Customer data belongs to the customer. Customers can remove their data whenever they choose to.

    The net-net is not to worry. It’s about protections on mining, mingling and moving data. If you are housing your business data in Microsoft’s Office 365 service, your email and documents won’t be mined, or mingled with who-knows-who’s data, or prevented from your removal.  Our customers’ data privacy needs come first.

  3. Derik says:

    @Tony, Interesting though that the only way Microsoft communicates data requests is through the Office 365 Administrator panel, and only if you click the box to subscribe to such requests. Who do those requests go to? The IT guy, not the proper customer Legal teams that would need to know. I would also be careful when you say that you don't "mingle" with customer data as it clearly states in your TOS that either Microsoft, or a Partner, may move a customer's data at any time; and again, the only notification is if the customer subscribes to this in the Administrative panel. Further, you also do mine customer data; read your own "Who can access your data" information, I especially like the part that states Microsoft Marketing can access a customer's address book "…for marketing purposes"…/v2

    And you need to be clear, Google does not mine or advertise to Apps for Business, EDU, Gov't, etc. customers; the only users that see adds are the free Google users; it's the same as Microsoft running adds in Live/Hotmail or in Bing.

    As for data portability, Microsoft isn't really very friendly here; for example, how do I get my data out of SharePoint without using 3rd party tools? Google has an entire team dedicated to data portability with their Data Liberation project: Users, or customers, own their data and can take it with them anytime they want to…

  4. joseph says:

    Hi Tony,

    I have two quick questions regarding your previous statement.

    If you don't scan emails to improve the service how do you handle SPAM?

    Can you point me to online documentation on how to port my data out of Office 365 and Sharepoint?


  5. Derik says:

    @Tony – Tony, how soon you forget that Microsoft is constantly under review by the EU for privacy and anti-trust. Remember the whole "embedding IE fiasco"? Trust me, you will have to deal with it again very soon…

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