back to article Oh, Google. You really are spoiling us: Docs block cockup chalks up yet another apology

Eager to avoid the perception that it has been leafing through netizens' files – a fear it has contended with at least since it began scanning Gmail messages to inform its ad biz – Google on Thursday issued a second statement to explain why it erroneously flagged files for a small percentage of Docs and Drive users as violating …

  1. fidodogbreath Silver badge

    Double negative

    Rob Goldman, vice president of ads products at Facebook, recently felt obliged to deny via Twitter that Facebook does not eavesdrop on users through smartphone microphones

    So, by denying that they do not eavesdrop, he confirmed that they do?

    An editing glitch, no doubt; but it doesn't really matter. Since FB Messenger users blithely type in their intimate conversations, desires, thoughts, hopes and fears of their own free will, there's probably no need for the mother ship to listen in and transcribe through voice recognition.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Double negative

      Aah, sorry. Story fixed. Should be "deny via Twitter that Facebook eavesdrops on users".

      Don't forget to email if you spot anything wrong.


      1. Tim Seventh
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Double negative

        "deny via Twitter that Facebook eavesdrops on users"

        because posting it on Facebook will end up on Facebook's eavesdrops database. Better to post it on Twitter instead.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Double negative

      "recently felt obliged to deny via Twitter that Facebook eavesdrops on users through smartphone microphones"

      Ever so slightly off the topic of the article, but I find the above notion quite fascinating. % of people who have a smartphone would be huge. It's an internet connected 'open mic', that most of us carry around with us 24/7. The potential for intelligence agencies must be vast.

      1. streaky

        Re: Double negative

        The potential for intelligence agencies must be vast.

        If you build it, they will come: with subpoenas. Just because you can build it doesn't mean you should.

        Completely anecdotally funny how when I have private discussions with people with my phone in the room I suddenly get adverts for that thing popping up on my phone. Funny how a lot of other people say exactly the same.

        Funny how a few days ago I forwarded my Imax tickets for Thor Ragnarok to my third party email client on my phone and 2 seconds later Android is showing me Thor related adverts. Mysterious right?

        Not only do they (apparently) listen in the room to *everything* being said, they also (one assumes) either read data being passed to third party apps or more likely read content from notifications from third party apps. This is of course all done surreptitiously with no way to disable it.

  2. JohnFen Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Yeah, no

    That explanation made me feel even better about avoiding Google Docs. It looks like an attempt to change the focus from legitimate privacy concerns to something that most people would find OK (it was a virus scanner!).

    But the problem is that little bit about signals being misinterpreted. In order for that to happen, there has to be non-virus-related "signals" that are being actively used. Those are of deep concern, and are precisely what Google doesn't want to talk about.

    Oh, and whether or not a human is the one looking at the documents is mostly meaningless. "Robots did it" doesn't make anything better.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Yeah, no

      Is it even possible to have viruses on Google Docs? Their word processor doesn't support macros as far as I can see. Other security vulnerabilities may exist, but where they are found, surely they would fix them rather than scan/block them?

      1. Donn Bly

        Re: Yeah, no

        I use macros in Google Sheets - they are written in JavaScript. I've never used them in the word processor but they are there under Tools -> Script Editor

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

          Re: Yeah, no

          How are they scanning encrypted files?

          Oh, you mean people are storing files on other people's servers without encryption? In that case why does anyone think it is private in the first place?

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: Yeah, no

        @katrinab You need glasses. Google apps use javascript for macros which means they can do just about anything and there is no setting to turn them off.

  3. Jim-234

    New "Feature" activated too early

    The block message given to the users of the documents, didn't sound anything like what their lame explanation was later on.

    More likely they are putting in place some new "Feature" to block anything they don't like and documents with opinions they don't agree with (Perhaps like criticisms of Google, or unflattering information on their favoured political candidates).

    It probably accidentally activated when they were setting it up & started blocking documents based on their new censorship policy which is not yet ready for roll out.

    Backup anything you have on Google that you care about to something they can't touch or be prepared to have it taken away at a moment's notice.

    Same as all the rest of these "cloud" and "Social" companies, they want to get you hooked talking about great freedoms and lack of cost, but are happy to arbitrarily lock you out of everything with almost no recourse or explanation anytime they feel like it because "terms of service" or "private corporation" type BS. Accountability is apparently only for smaller groups like national governments.

    1. Dr. Ellen

      Re: New "Feature" activated too early

      Even if Google, Facebook, et al were pure as the driven snow, I wouldn't use them. If the internet, the ISP, or the servers go down -- how will I get at my documents?

      (I'm from Minnesota, and familiar with driven snow. It doesn't stay pure very long.)

    2. TReko

      Re: New "Feature" activated too early

      If you care about your data make a backup. Tools like SyncDocs will make continuous backups to and from Google.

      Whether Google or Facebook et al are trustworthy is beyond the point. Your Google Docs and files are yours - no one cares about them more than you do. Especially if you are running the free version, you have _no_ support other than a user forum, which is already filled with "Help Google lost my homework" posts.

  4. Captain DaFt

    "The process does not involve human intervention."

    So Google is admitting that the reptoids no longer trust them and are accessing the data directly? ☺

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius


      I have always assumed that letting Google see anything is equivalent to handing it to US Intelligence.

  5. P. Lee Silver badge

    >"a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google Docs as abusive."

    Am I the only one concerned that Google Docs are being flagged as "abusive"?

    Even if they did decide to pass judgment, er, categorise, on what people write, why would they be connecting such an evaluation system to a delete function?

  6. Arkwright

    Ah come on!

    You're not really saying people actually USE Google Docs?

    Surely only someone two spoons short of the full canteen would think their docs did not have the NSA's full rectal examination in any US cloud?

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