Friday, 10 November 2017

Why Google is Reading Your Google Docs

Google Docs
Most of the users of the online word processing service by Google, known as Google Docs, were in for a surprise on Tuesday when their documents faced a block as a result of violating the policies. Many users were reported saying they lost access to either their wedding vows or academic researches, for example, receiving notifications saying that their documents had violated the terms of service of Google Docs. This error was reported by dozens of users on the product forums of Google.
While Google acted quickly and put the blame on an erroneous update that locked its users out of their own documents by mistake, the whole incident disclosed what many people did not notice, that Google is scrutinising the apparently personal files stored in Google Docs.

While Google was under pressure to keep a better watch on the kind of videos that were being uploaded on YouTube, deleting content that was illegal from its search results and better monitoring of its advertising network, hardly few people were aware that Google Docs was also being watched. Google Docs is not only used by people for their day-to-day works but also by many businesses across the globe with possibly classified information. Rachael Bale, a journalist at National Geographic, wrote that she found this kind of monitoring creepy. Another user, Kelly O’Mara, who is writer, stated that people really need to take into consideration how much information they have been feeding into Google Docs.

While hardly few will actually read it, the terms of service of Google Drive forbid spam, hate or violent speech, pornography, the spread of private information, etc. Only shared files are subjected to these rules, so the files that are kept private are apparently an exception.

A spokesman for Google stated that Docs and other files in Google Drive are regulated by an algorithm that keeps a watch on the abuse of its policies and if they are found to supposedly be a violation then it automatically blocks those files. Unlike a few systems, where the supposed matter is escalated to a moderator, here there is no human evaluation involved.

The spokesman also said that the primary reason its algorithm scans the files is for the prevention of computer viruses or spam from spreading. It is not clear if Google’s algorithm is utilised to keep a check on pornography or other types of misuse, or if the policy is equally applied to work as well as personal accounts.

After many users were locked out of their vital documents, the company stated that they made a code push that mistakenly marked a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which resulted in those documents getting blocked automatically. They also mentioned that a fix was already in place and all users will soon regain full access to their private docs. They issued an apology for the disruption while maintaining that their main focus is user safety.

While Google provides free of charge access to its “G Suite” of programs to its corporate users, Google Docs is available to consumers for free same as Gmail, Maps and its other services. Its company privacy policy mentions that it collects information from Google Docs along with other services, but it is not clarified whether this information is used for adverts.

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