Google Docs: Terms of Disservice or Evil 2.0?: Page 2

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For those unfamiliar with the problem, these open indemnification clauses are fine if you’re a major corporation with a big budget for lawyering. But they’re a potential death knell for a small or medium-size company that can’t afford to pay the costs that one of the planet’s most heavily capitalized companies could incur in a legal dispute. And we’re not talking just trial costs: the clause refers to any legal action.

Does any of this make Google evil, as I have postulated in an earlier column? If they actually intend to lay claim to your company’s content and how it is used, then, yes, they are evil. And profoundly stupid. Because no corporate counsel would allow Docs and Spreadsheets to handle any remotely strategic content. And therefore no company would ever want to replace inside-the-firewall control over Office with security-free Docs and Spreadsheets.

And if Google didn’t intend for any of this language to appear – hard to imagine it was all a mistake – then they are beyond stupid: Don’t they understand that corporate data, legally, requires strong, verifiable protection standards that are mandated by law? What do they think would happen if their users’ customer data, or patient information, or financial disclosures, ended up as part of a Google marketing or syndication program?

Of course, they might get sued, which some Google defenders claim ought to be enough to keep Google from acting on any of these loopholes. But there’s a loophole to protect Google from this loophole too: remember the indemnification clause? The terms of use would require the user who sues to indemnify Google for the cost of that suit. Talk about a Catch-22.

All of which brings us full circle to the fundamental truth: Corporate data and content usage can’t be governed by poorly-worded terms of service and Catch-22 gotchas. And, as long as Google’s terms of disservice for Docs and Spreadsheets are vague and misleading at best, and downright evil at worst, no enterprise in its right mind would ever replace Office with this bag of tricks. It just wouldn’t be worth the price, however tempting “free” and “on-demand” might seem.


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