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Another Reason Lawyers Shouldn’t “Drive” Google Drive

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.

20 Responses to Another Reason Lawyers Shouldn’t “Drive” Google Drive

  1. 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.

  2. Mark Olberding says:

    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.

  3. [...] to me, is the announcement and opening of Google Drive, Google’s Dropbox killer. If you read this post, you’ll know I’m not recommending Drive just yet, at least for attorneys. Unfettered [...]

  4. [...] is trying hard to get you to jump to their Drive service (here’s why lawyers should wait), and is especially touting its features. If you don’t know, Drive has assumed or morphed [...]

  5. CARadke says:

    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.

  6. [...] s); })(); I’m a fan of the Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) system (except for this little reason or this one). I like that I can open, edit, create, manage, design…, well, you get the [...]

  7. [...] my favorite PDF editor, RepliGo Reader. Second, using the new offline mode in Google Drive (I know what I’ve said about the program before), I was able to draft and edit my response to a motion for summary judgment using only my tablet. [...]

  8. [...] preferred apps are OfficeSuite Pro 6 and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). Although I have some full-fledged reservations about using Google Drive for anything but the most basic documents (think publicly -filed [...]

  9. [...] that sometimes you get what you pay for Those are great, and I’ve talked about a couple, especially the agreements, when it comes to mobile security. You can check out my references on using Dropbox (my preferred [...]

  10. [...] though I have Google Drive reservations, that doesn’t mean you need to. The Google and Your Business Blog gives these five tips to [...]

  11. [...] add, if you don’t agree with the policy, you don’t need to use the service. I’m ardently critical about some of Google’s service policies, yet I’m far more willing to trust Google with certain information than say some local [...]

  12. [...] Drive (free) – I have reservations about actually storing important information, but for basic word processing and document creation, [...]

  13. [...] Google changes its information access policy, I still cannot recommend Google Drive as a file storage platform for confidential client documents. However, it’s perfect for [...]

  14. [...] Drive service, is surely compromised. Google Drive’s anemic privacy protections have already prompted me to dissuade lawyers from storing confidential materials on its servers. After this newest [...]

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

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

      • jecrump says:

        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.

        • 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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