The “do no evil” mantra of Google is out the door.

If you’re a lawyer who is considering using Google Drive as your Dropbox alternative, I suggest you stop, or at least check the Google Terms of Service. From the TOS:

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 we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps).

Uh, that’s a scary thought. A worldwide license which basically means Google owns everything. I’m not an expert in the area of licenses, but when I see “use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content,” forever, I get worried.

Sure the base arguments are that “there are settings that you can change to ‘protect’ yourself,” and “you’re already using Google’s other services, so what’s the big deal.”

The problem is though that I’m okay with sharing information about my calendar, email (slightly), and contacts, which may contain little or no private and confidential information, rather than uploading and storing my entire client file.

Here’s a great post on ZDNet discussing the various terms for other services. You’ll notice that even ZDNet is hesitant about the scope of the “limiting” clause.

So, until Google wants to change or clarify its TOS, I’m sticking with Dropbox for my mobile file storage.

Update: Google has changed its Terms of Service to differentiate between its free services and Google Apps users. The Terms are a “your stuff is your stuff” statement on intellectual property.

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Jeffrey Taylor · April 25, 2012 at 7:36 am

This is also the reason that I make it an infrequent choice to use Google Docs and store the information. Not so keen on including or keeping the information with Google, at least for now.

Mark Olberding · April 26, 2012 at 8:43 am

Outstanding information on Google Drive. I passed your blog post on to another listserve I am a member of (Legal practice pro)because some attorneys there were indicating they were already using Drive and thought it was a great substitute for Dropbox. I made sure to give you full credit for the information.

You know, a future blog post I would like to see is if there is any timer out their that allows you to list the clients name, start and stop times, a brief description of the work performed and a way to get it to your main computer for entry (manual I presume) into your time and billing program. I use PCLaw and know the new version has a mobility feature, but, I have not upgraded yet.

    Jeffrey Taylor · April 26, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for the comment Mark. As for the time billing program, I’m testing a couple to see, so look for the post soon, I hope.

CARadke · May 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Thanks for the post. The duty to protect client information seems to be at issue, and the Google Drive TOS provides no comfort. It is one thing if you are using Google Drive to store or exchange non-confidential material. In any other legal context, it looks like a recipe for disaster.

    Jeffrey Taylor · May 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    I couldn’t agree more. I am not sure how much lawyers will be able to use the service considering the TOS concerns. Certainly needs some beefing up.

Pablo Carranza · January 10, 2014 at 8:40 am

Does the same TOS apply to the paid version of Google Drive, i.e. Google Apps for Business?

    Jeffrey Taylor · January 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Yes. No. There are different TOS (Updated 01/28/14)

      jecrump · January 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

      I don’t think that is true for the paid version. See section 7

      7. Intellectual Property Rights; Brand Features.

      7.1 Intellectual Property Rights. Except as expressly set forth herein, this Agreement does not grant either party any rights, implied or otherwise, to the other’s content or any of the other’s intellectual property. As between the parties, Customer owns all Intellectual Property Rights in Customer Data, and Google owns all Intellectual Property Rights in the Services.

      Since law (or contracts) addressed to a specific situation or relationship override more general rules, it seems to me that a paying customer of Google Business would have the benefit of the much less ambiguous “your stuff is yours” term above. If you have heard of actual cases where paying customers had their confidential information lost or appropriated, please let us know.

        Jeffrey Taylor · January 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

        Google changed its TOS to clarify this ambiguity after I wrote this post. I still have concerns about Drive, but without the ambiguity, I think anything that you send to the cloud remains yours. If you’re using Google Apps, you’re good. Free stuff, I’m not so sure.

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