To be clear: I’ve always disliked Google. If you ask me, I prefer Yahoo mail and Yahoo search over their Google counterparts. iOS is better than Android. Facebook is better than Google+. You get my point.
However, Google did get some things right. I do use Google Translate, Google Maps, and YouTube.
And until recently, I used Google Drive. Now? Well, I don’t.
My change of mind came about after reading Google’s terms of service (ToS). Why was I doing that? Well, I was reading Future Crimes by Marc Goodman, and after reading a section on ToS, I decided to investigate. My findings were frightening.
Here is some of what they said.
When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through 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. — Google Terms of Service (Last Updated April 2014)
In English, it means that by writing or uploading a document to Google Drive, you give Google the copyright to that work. Supposing I wrote a story on Google Docs (which I have done). According to the ToS, it would technically belong to them.
Granted, Google probably doesn’t invoke that clause too often, given what the next sentence says.
The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.
Don’t breath a sigh of relief just yet. Does that mean Google can publish something you wrote on Docs and paste “written on Google Docs” on it?
The truth is that Google is basically stealing our intellectual property. Just because they don’t distribute or sell documents now doesn’t mean that they won’t do it in the future.
Anyway, the next sentence should knock you out, if I understood it correctly.
This license continues even if you stop using our Services.
That’s great. Even if I clear everything off Google Drive and delete my account today, Google still owns the rights to my stuff. And to make matters worse, apparently clicking on the button saying “I have read and agree to the Terms of Services” is legally binding, so you can’t argue in court that you didn’t actually read the ToS. You clicked a button that said you did.
You know it’s true. Who reads the ToS? Many of them are extremely long and completely in legalese. The Apple Store’s ToS is 52 pages, Facebook’s is some 9,300 words, and even WordPress.com’s is nearly 3,800 words.
To be fair, Google’s ToS was only around 2,000 words. The sections above add up to 99 words. That’s 5% of the ToS. However, it was some 600 words down the document. The average reader probably doesn’t read that far. Doesn’t Google think that it should display such an important clause in big neon words?
I admit that Google’s not the only one with a ridiculous ToS. So why am I picking on them? It’s because of their slogan: Don’t be evil. I don’t know who’s not supposed to be evil, but it’s certainly not their legal department.
Yes, just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right. What if murder was legalised? Would it be right? While Google is working within the letter of the law, it has ignored the spirit of the law, and with that, its own slogan.
Google needs to change (and shorten) their ToS. But they probably won’t until it gets more media attention. They might listen if millions of people stop using their services in protest. But I’m just one person, and quitting Google for good really isn’t going to affect them.
I hope that you’re now aware of what big companies include in their ToS. Whether you decide to actually read them now is your choice. Just be aware that its clauses might come back to bite you.
But as for me, I’m done with Google until they change their ToS.