Corporate Email Users, Email Compliance and Google’s Desktop Search

Now that Google’s product has been out a few days, people are starting to write about it. One concern that is coming up is that of security, which you can read about in many articles such as this one.

One topic not yet mentioned is that for corporate users, Google’s product may also have severe legal implications. Its one thing to keep cached copies of webpages. But, keeping cached copies of email, which can contain important proprietary information, is another story. And as it turns out, if you delete email in Outlook, Google’s product still keeps its stealthy little hands on its own copy anyway. This means that users that may *think* they deleted that email when they actually did not. Unfortunately, I think this is a clear sign that Google still “doesn’t get it” when it comes to enterprise users and their search needs.

In 2004, many companies are spending huge dollars on making sure that their company is in compliance with new information responsibility laws. Companies are more responsible than ever for making sure that information about their customers is protected and not leaked. If your employees install Google’s software, and receive a transient email containing confidential information, Google caches it in the background, and won’t let you delete it without going back and manually looking for it. Most users won’t have any idea this is happening, let alone know what to do about it. And once that information is cached in a hidden place, its could accidentally slip into the wrong hands.

Likewise, if you archive your email in Exchange, or have corporate retention policies to delete emails that are older than 90 or 180 days, Google pays no attention. It happily caches your private information with no regard for your information lifecycle.

Lastly, there is the complaint that many users have already pointed out, which is that once the information cached, anyone logging into the machine as another user can now also see the cached copies of that email. So, no more lending your machine to your office mate while you are out to lunch.

If I were in charge of an IT department, I would be very concerned about employees installing Google’s product. Its a lot of legal risk.