Reason 4,320,333 why I do not use Google: Some users of Google Docs yesterday were blocked by the company from their files because of “terms of service violations.”
In response to some of these reports, a Google employee tweeted that the team handling Google Docs was looking into the matter. Later Tuesday, Google said in a statement that it had “made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked. A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs.”
Although the error appeared to be a technical glitch, the fact that Google is capable of identifying “bad” Google Docs at all is a reminder: Much of what you upload, receive or type to Google is monitored. While many people may be aware that Gmail scans your emails — for instance, so that its smart-reply feature can figure out what responses to suggest — this policy extends to other Google products, too.
Here’s what this story reveals: Google monitors the content of the files that people store on Google Docs. Google has also developed software that can decide if some of that content is acceptable or unacceptable, to Google. Google can then block access to those supposedly private files, thus giving it the power to silence the work of anyone the company doesn’t like.
Sounds peachy-keen, doesn’t it?