Or Why You Might Reconsider Forwarding Your Work Mail to Gmail
“Do No Evil!” That’s Google’s well-known catch-phrase that makes people more trusting of them. It has been called into question a few times when Google has over-stepped its bounds before and I’ll cite the Google Buzz privacy issues as a recent example. Would it be evil for Google to do something that you have agreed to? Well, your answer probably depends on what you have agreed upon. With that in mind, I decided to dissect the very dry reading material that is the Google Terms of Service. The Terms usually go unread just like the EULA, which might pay to read. Without modifying them at all, I’ve provided some commentary inline below, jumping to selected tidbits that stood out to me. Some of them are your standard run of the line legalese but others might be a little more eye-opening.
3. Language of the Terms
3.2 If there is any contradiction between what the English language version of the Terms says and what a translation says, then the English language version shall take precedence.
If you’re in a different country and something gets interpreted incorrectly, the English version trumps. So, if you’re a non-English speaker and you’re trying to understand what exactly you’re agreeing to by accepting the Terms of Service and using a Google service, you might actually be agreeing to something completely opposite of what you’re reading.
4. Provision of the Services by Google
4.2 Google is constantly innovating in order to provide the best possible experience for its users. You acknowledge and agree that the form and nature of the Services which Google provides may change from time to time without prior notice to you.
These terms that you agree with now may change after you’ve become dependent on the service and we don’t have to notify you at all.
4.3 As part of this continuing innovation, you acknowledge and agree that Google may stop (permanently or temporarily) providing the Services (or any features within the Services) to you or to users generally at Google’s sole discretion, without prior notice to you. You may stop using the Services at any time. You do not need to specifically inform Google when you stop using the Services.
Yep, these services that you’re using regularly now, we could just take them away tomorrow. You could feel free to stop using them any time you want, like you quit using Google Wave. Yeah, we know. It hurt our feelings and you didn’t even tell us!
4.4 You acknowledge and agree that if Google disables access to your account, you may be prevented from accessing the Services, your account details or any files or other content which is contained in your account.
Google can take its ball and go home any time we like. Google can also take your ball and go home any time it wants!
5. Use of the Services by you
5.2 You agree to use the Services only for purposes that are permitted by (a) the Terms and (b) any applicable law, regulation or generally accepted practices or guidelines in the relevant jurisdictions (including any laws regarding the export of data or software to and from the United States or other relevant countries).
Use these services as we or your local law enforcement say is acceptable.
5.6 You agree that you are solely responsible for (and that Google has no responsibility to you or to any third party for) any breach of your obligations under the Terms and for the consequences (including any loss or damage which Google may suffer) of any such breach.
You’re held responsible if you break these terms or something happens as a result of breaking these Terms.
7. Privacy and your personal information
7.2 You agree to the use of your data in accordance with Google’s privacy policies.
8. Content in the Services
8.1 You understand that all information (such as data files, written text, computer software, music, audio files or other sounds, photographs, videos or other images) which you may have access to as part of, or through your use of, the Services are the sole responsibility of the person from which such content originated. All such information is referred to below as the “Content”.
Just setting the terms, anything you upload or create using Google services (Google Docs, Gmail, YouTube, etc.) are the responsibility of the content originator.
8.3 Google reserves the right (but shall have no obligation) to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any or all Content from any Service. For some of the Services, Google may provide tools to filter out explicit sexual content. These tools include the SafeSearch preference settings (see http://www.google.com/help/customize.html#safe). In addition, there are commercially available services and software to limit access to material that you may find objectionable.
Yep, that content you just gave us (created or uploaded) we have the ability to pre-screen, review, flag, filter, modify, refuse or remove any of it at any point.
8.5 You agree that you are solely responsible for (and that Google has no responsibility to you or to any third party for) any Content that you create, transmit or display while using the Services and for the consequences of your actions (including any loss or damage which Google may suffer) by doing so.
However, you’re responsible for that content and any consequences of it (like libel or slander or copyright infringement, for example).
11. Content license from you
11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.
You have the copyright to all the content that you create or upload to our services. Sure, but, we’re going to do whatever the hell we want to with it which could include all of these verbs: reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute. Oh yeah, and we’re going to say that when you “give” us this ability, we’re taking it perpetually, irrevocably, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusively, just FYI.
11.2 You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.
We might also give this content to anybody else we have a “relationship” with. Don’t forget we’re an advertising company, not a search engine company, and we have lots of relationships.
11.3 You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.
We’ll put your content where we need it and change it how we want to fit the technical needs of our services. We don’t promise anything about encryption while being transmitted and even specify the public network.
11.4 You confirm and warrant to Google that you have all the rights, power and authority necessary to grant the above license.
Do you have those rights? In every case? A work-related e-mail that is sent to you which you forward to your Gmail account, suddenly that attachment is available for Google to reproduce, publish, display, or distribute. I hope your business partner that just sent you a draft of his patent application understands. I hope the Univeristy that just had its research published right under its nose.
12. Software updates
12.1 The Software which you use may automatically download and install updates from time to time from Google. These updates are designed to improve, enhance and further develop the Services and may take the form of bug fixes, enhanced functions, new software modules and completely new versions. You agree to receive such updates (and permit Google to deliver these to you) as part of your use of the Services.
Just as the clouds in the sky change their shape as they want, so does Software as a Service in The Cloud. Hopefully they’re improvements but it might also get rid of that feature that your workflow was relying upon.
13. Ending your relationship with Google
13.1 The Terms will continue to apply until terminated by either you or Google as set out below.
13.2 If you want to terminate your legal agreement with Google, you may do so by (a) notifying Google at any time and (b) closing your accounts for all of the Services which you use, where Google has made this option available to you. Your notice should be sent, in writing, to Google’s address which is set out at the beginning of these Terms.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, United States.
13.3 Google may at any time, terminate its legal agreement with you if:
(A) you have breached any provision of the Terms (or have acted in manner which clearly shows that you do not intend to, or are unable to comply with the provisions of the Terms); or
(B) Google is required to do so by law (for example, where the provision of the Services to you is, or becomes, unlawful); or
(C) the partner with whom Google offered the Services to you has terminated its relationship with Google or ceased to offer the Services to you; or
(D) Google is transitioning to no longer providing the Services to users in the country in which you are resident or from which you use the service; or
(E) the provision of the Services to you by Google is, in Google’s opinion, no longer commercially viable.
Google holds all the power in the relationship and has the ability to remove your access to the service.
13.5 When these Terms come to an end, all of the legal rights, obligations and liabilities that you and Google have benefited from, been subject to (or which have accrued over time whilst the Terms have been in force) or which are expressed to continue indefinitely, shall be unaffected by this cessation, and the provisions of paragraph 20.7 shall continue to apply to such rights, obligations and liabilities indefinitely.
Even if you quit using Google’s services, terminate these Terms of Service, Google can still hold you accountable for any legal matters deemed in the state of California.
15. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY
15.1 SUBJECT TO OVERALL PROVISION IN PARAGRAPH 14.1 ABOVE, YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT GOOGLE, ITS SUBSIDIARIES AND AFFILIATES, AND ITS LICENSORS SHALL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR:
(A) ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL CONSEQUENTIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES WHICH MAY BE INCURRED BY YOU, HOWEVER CAUSED AND UNDER ANY THEORY OF LIABILITY.. THIS SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NOT BE LIMITED TO, ANY LOSS OF PROFIT (WHETHER INCURRED DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY), ANY LOSS OF GOODWILL OR BUSINESS REPUTATION, ANY LOSS OF DATA SUFFERED, COST OF PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES, OR OTHER INTANGIBLE LOSS;
(B) ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE WHICH MAY BE INCURRED BY YOU, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO LOSS OR DAMAGE AS A RESULT OF:
(I) ANY RELIANCE PLACED BY YOU ON THE COMPLETENESS, ACCURACY OR EXISTENCE OF ANY ADVERTISING, OR AS A RESULT OF ANY RELATIONSHIP OR TRANSACTION BETWEEN YOU AND ANY ADVERTISER OR SPONSOR WHOSE ADVERTISING APPEARS ON THE SERVICES;
(II) ANY CHANGES WHICH GOOGLE MAY MAKE TO THE SERVICES, OR FOR ANY PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY CESSATION IN THE PROVISION OF THE SERVICES (OR ANY FEATURES WITHIN THE SERVICES);
(III) THE DELETION OF, CORRUPTION OF, OR FAILURE TO STORE, ANY CONTENT AND OTHER COMMUNICATIONS DATA MAINTAINED OR TRANSMITTED BY OR THROUGH YOUR USE OF THE SERVICES;
(III) YOUR FAILURE TO PROVIDE GOOGLE WITH ACCURATE ACCOUNT INFORMATION;
(IV) YOUR FAILURE TO KEEP YOUR PASSWORD OR ACCOUNT DETAILS SECURE AND CONFIDENTIAL;
15.2 THE LIMITATIONS ON GOOGLE’S LIABILITY TO YOU IN PARAGRAPH 15.1 ABOVE SHALL APPLY WHETHER OR NOT GOOGLE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF OR SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF ANY SUCH LOSSES ARISING.
However, Google has no responsibility for your losses, even if you didn’t know it was possible to suffer such losses.
17.1 Some of the Services are supported by advertising revenue and may display advertisements and promotions. These advertisements may be targeted to the content of information stored on the Services, queries made through the Services or other information.
Yep, Google has ads.
17.2 The manner, mode and extent of advertising by Google on the Services are subject to change without specific notice to you.
We retain control over how we advertise.
17.3 In consideration for Google granting you access to and use of the Services, you agree that Google may place such advertising on the Services.
You view these ads in exchange for Google’s services.
18. Other content
18.1 The Services may include hyperlinks to other web sites or content or resources. Google may have no control over any web sites or resources which are provided by companies or persons other than Google.
18.2 You acknowledge and agree that Google is not responsible for the availability of any such external sites or resources, and does not endorse any advertising, products or other materials on or available from such web sites or resources.
18.3 You acknowledge and agree that Google is not liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the availability of those external sites or resources, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any advertising, products or other materials on, or available from, such web sites or resources.
Google will link to other sites, maybe even malicious sites but Google isn’t responsible for it.
19. Changes to the Terms
19.1 Google may make changes to the Universal Terms or Additional Terms from time to time. When these changes are made, Google will make a new copy of the Universal Terms available at http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS?hl=en and any new Additional Terms will be made available to you from within, or through, the affected Services.
The Terms of Service will change to meet Google’s needs. Referring to 20.3, Google might notify you by email, mail, or on the service itself.
19.2 You understand and agree that if you use the Services after the date on which the Universal Terms or Additional Terms have changed, Google will treat your use as acceptance of the updated Universal Terms or Additional Terms.
If you continue to use Google’s services after the Terms of Service have changed, Google takes that as an acceptance of the Terms of Service.
20. General legal terms
20.3 You agree that Google may provide you with notices, including those regarding changes to the Terms, by email, regular mail, or postings on the Services.
20.4 You agree that if Google does not exercise or enforce any legal right or remedy which is contained in the Terms (or which Google has the benefit of under any applicable law), this will not be taken to be a formal waiver of Google’s rights and that those rights or remedies will still be available to Google.
Google doesn’t waive its legal rights just because it doesn’t pursue the enforcement of these terms.
20.5 If any court of law, having the jurisdiction to decide on this matter, rules that any provision of these Terms is invalid, then that provision will be removed from the Terms without affecting the rest of the Terms. The remaining provisions of the Terms will continue to be valid and enforceable.
If a court of law throws out any specific point of these Terms of Service, the rest are still valid. Unless, of course, the judge throws out 20.5, then we’re just confused.
20.6 You acknowledge and agree that each member of the group of companies of which Google is the parent shall be third party beneficiaries to the Terms and that such other companies shall be entitled to directly enforce, and rely upon, any provision of the Terms which confers a benefit on (or rights in favor of) them. Other than this, no other person or company shall be third party beneficiaries to the Terms.
If When Google buys another company they inherit your agreement to these terms.
20.7 The Terms, and your relationship with Google under the Terms, shall be governed by the laws of the State of California without regard to its conflict of laws provisions. You and Google agree to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within the county of Santa Clara, California to resolve any legal matter arising from the Terms. Notwithstanding this, you agree that Google shall still be allowed to apply for injunctive remedies (or an equivalent type of urgent legal relief) in any jurisdiction.
Interactions with Google are governed by the laws of the State of California, no matter which state or country you’re in.
Last updated April 16, 2007
Not frequently updated but something to pay attention to. I wonder if Services should be required to provide an RSS feed for their Terms of Service.
The points that really stick out to me are:
4.3 & 4.4 – Google has complete control on whether or not a Service exists and whether or not you have access to it. If you are prevented access from it, there is no transition period that involves getting your content off of it. How can you possibly depend on something when you don’t have a service level agreement and the Terms state that it could go away at their whim?
Let’s say you were forwarding all of your work-related e-mails to your Gmail account. You get some malware on your computer and it starts sending out spam to everybody in your address book or to every e-mail address out there. Google responds, thinking you are the spammer, and disables your account. You no longer have access to any of your previous work e-mail and current incoming mail is now bouncing.
11.1 & 11.2 – Google has a right to distribute and do whatever they want with anything you upload or create using their services. Sure, this makes sense if you think about YouTube but does it for Google Docs or Gmail? Your private conversations or your sensitive personnel information could be broadcast around the world. You retain copyright to it though. Great! That’s not going to do a whole lot of good if you have to pay Identity Theft insurance for everybody at your work.
20.7 – The Terms and your relationship with Google is governed by California law. This isn’t a big deal to me personally but I know here at work, state law mandates that any EULA that we would be agreeing to has to be modified to change these sorts of lines to say that State of Illinois laws govern the interpretation of these terms. (It makes purchasing software real fun! Freeware and open-source software is also included.)
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to not use Google’s services. I use them all the time and I certainly prefer Gmail over any of the other free services out there. Speaking of those other services, I’m sure they have Terms that you agree to with the same key phrases as we noticed above. I just use them for personal reasons and not for work.
I’m not trying to be a fear-mongerer, I’m just saying you might want to reconsider how much you give to Google (or other companies) particularly in the case of work-related information and take into consideration that there might be FERPA, HIPPA, or other sensitive information. It’s very dry reading but just clicking the ‘I Accept’ button could cause a load of problems further down the road. Do KNOW Evil!