Google Drive may be a bad idea for corporate users


When Google Drive launched on April 24, there were shouts of delight echoing around cyberspace. The general response is that it's free, so what's not to like? However, the reality may be somewhat different.

To use Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Drive you have to request it. You can do this by going to and signing in with your Google account. Currently Google will take your request, and at some point in the future, usually about 24 hours later, you'll be granted access. Once you have access, you can use Drive as a place to share files for access from your office computers and some of your mobile devices.

If this sounds a lot like Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) SkyDrive, Box, iCloud and Dropbox, that's because it is. But there are differences. So far, Drive, while free, has limited support for mobile devices. You can't yet get an app for iPhones or iPads for example, and it won't support Windows Phone 7 with an app. It will work with Android devices. If you sign up for Drive, you get 5 gigabytes of storage for free. If you want more, you have to pay for it, but the cost is reasonable.

Drive, which some have also taken to calling GDrive, does allow sharing of files for collaboration, which is handy, and it can make documents and other materials available to mobile users without their having to have them emailed or otherwise sent individually, so it makes such sharing easier. But before you run out and sign your employees up for Drive, you might want to have your legal staff take a look at the terms of service. Here's the part you should worry about:

"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 that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights that 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."

There are a number of other sections of Google's terms of service that explain what Google has in mind if it decides to use your data, but the bottom line is that the company can, if it wishes, use whatever you store on your Drive.

As you can see, before you use Drive in your company, you probably should have whoever handles legal matters take a look. Meanwhile, it's worth knowing that not every such service has terms of service like those. Microsoft's recently updated SkyDrive, for example, has no such clause in its agreements, and it supports a much broader range of mobile platforms.

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