Thursday, November 3, 2011

How private is your private Google data? Google transparency report

How private is your Google data ? The data in question includes your personal photos, documents, contacts and emails used by or stored in a multitude of Google applications like Picasa, orkut, Docs, blogger, Gmail etc?

In the general the data is in relatively safe hands.

But in the true sense the data is not 100 percent private.

Governments and other government agencies and officials belonging to law enforcement agencies can request for private Google user account data and content stored in Google accounts and some times request the data be blocked or removed permanently.

Fortunately, Google has a report giving the number of such requests that they get from the government and even classifies these based on the type of requests and the application it belongs to.

This is called the Google Transparency report

Google classifies the requests that it gets from the government into two different categories :
  1. User Data requests
  2. Content Removal requests
User Data requests is basically requests that require google to give out user data and account information. This can be anything ranging from basic account information to personal files.

Direct link to the page above : Link

The Indian government and its various agencies has requested for User Data in Google accounts and services 1739 times which includes 2439 user account

Its scary to think that the government has this type of access to view your most private data that for example may be your personal photos stored in Picasa in a private album.

Content Removal requests are those sites or URLs that need to be blocked or removed from the google search results or from applications/services like Orkut, Blogger etc.

Direct link to the page above : Link

Indian government had requested 68 times for more than 358 items to be removed from either search results or block/remove google services content like orkut, youtube etc.

It is true that this facility can be very useful for blocking malicious material from the internet like stolen personal photos or documents or shutting down blogs or sites that propagate anti-social thoughts and content. We should also understand that inherent potential of this facility to be misused.

We should really applaud Google's transparency report initiative which makes this sensitive data public and thus to an extent prevent misuse.

What do you think of this? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Gmail's new look - Switch now

Google today rolled out a new look and feel for Gmail. This is in line with UI re-hauls being done for most of its applications. Google describes this look as elastic meaning that the interface can adapt to various screen sizes ranging from smart phones to smart Televisions.

It will be made available to everyone by an email from the gmail team. If you don't want to wait till then, you can click on the floating "Switch to the new look" link shown on the bottom left of the page.

Once you click this link you will be shown a page which gives some info about the new look and you can opt to continue to the new look or keep your old look as it is. Click on switch to new look to use the new look and feel.

The new interface looks very simple and in line with other applications like google docs, blogger etc which were transitioned to the new look earlier.

The new look in the default Cozy display density setting.

You can always use the setting button (gear) and choose compact or cozy if you feel the spacing too much that it wastes your screen real estate.

You can go back to the old look anytime by choosing the "Revert to old look temporarily" option from the settings button.

Another great feature is the HD themes available for the new look. Below is Gmail with Turf theme.

How do you like the new interface ? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.