The New York Times reported on Tuesday that a glitch in Google Docs had incorrectly locked out users due to a false positive for inappropriate content. The article also highlighted a concern with free Google services that we’ve talked about before. Google continually mines for data in all of its products and there is an on-going concern about privacy because of it. The glitch in Google Docs causes numerous users to receive messages that their content had violated the terms of service and they were therefore locked out.
What? Are we going to warn you about data privacy again? Well, not this time. This time we’d like to remind you to read the terms of service. Is the software/service you are using sweeping for, other otherwise collecting, data or content? No, we aren’t suggesting that they have an actual person sitting in a room reading all of your content – although under the terms of service they probably could. But are they collecting data or content that should be confidential? And if they are, do you know what it is they are collecting or monitoring?
In fact, most if not all practice management software providers have portions of their terms of service that give them access to your information for servicing issues, but be a diligent consumer and be sure you understand all the terms of service. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact your provider to ask questions. Yes, all lawyers handle confidential information but if you have clients who are subject to governmental privacy provisions (for example, clients with security clearance, HIPPA requirements, etc.) you will want to read the fine print. Although this is an emerging area of law, the ethical rules require you to take reasonable measures to safeguard your client’s information — and certainly reading the terms of service is a reasonable measure.