Lawyers: Beware Google’s desktop search

Google this week released version 3.0 of its Google Desktop Search. Its most significant enhancement over earlier versions could also be a significant headache for lawyers.

The feature in question sounds pretty nifty, particularly for the road warriors among us. It allows you to search across multiple computers provided they are all tied to your Google account. This means that if you have a desktop and a laptop, you can search both from either computer, no matter where you are and even if the other computer is turned off.

However, to enable this (you can disable it), Google temporarily stores copies of your indexed files on its servers. The data is stored temporarily to allow the new index information to be sent to the other computer. After a period of time, Google automatically deletes the data.

But with the U.S. government making no secret of its subpoenas for personal information stored by Google and other search companies, even temporary storage of a lawyer’s files on Google’s servers could threaten client confidentiality. Given this, go ahead and download the latest toolbar, but think twice before enabling its ability to search across multiple computers.

For two other perspectives on this, see: