This article mentions Access Transparency
> By default, G Suite Enterprise enables a feature called Access Transparency, which allows administrators to see who has looked at each document within the organization.
But gets it a bit wrong. Access Transparency is a log of any Google employees who have looked at stuff in your domain. From the official site "Access Transparency logs provide information about actions of Google staff when they access your data.". Which is a nice way of knowing that Google employees aren't randomly snooping on your files.
The thing about NSLs is the target often never finds out because there was no public investigations or courts involved.
I remember reading a particular drug investigation had over 50 wiretaps including the mother's and sister's (of the targets) smartphones because they sometimes used their phones for business, which is pretty common in poorer households. I've always been curious if they found out afterwards.
In The Wire they had a scene where they would pause the audio if it's only someone else talking after x amount of time. But I highly doubt every single text, picture, and message sent to the person isn't being seen by at least one person.
Come to think of it though, even if you put your own machine in your own basement, they could just come in when you're not home and rootkit your box in numerous ways, and you'd probably never know barring some pretty heavy security.
State level actors are very hard to defend against, especially when it's your own state.
And you can actually make it incredibly hard quite easily -- do everything on an ipad with a strong passphrase and no network connection (except occasionally to get software updates from Apple), keep it in a decent tamper evident safe (not a money safe), a painfully loud alarm with PIRs, in a location where people are around.
Contrast that with surveillance via grep.
The mere existence of a local alarm can greatly increase the risk of getting caught when going into a residence. State level actors really hate getting caught. They tend to be the sort of people who do not deal very well with uncertainty.
does it do that? Or does it just show you times that Google is willing to tell you Google employees snooped on your files?
The truth is twofold.
One: if the barrier can be melted according to magic rules, then it is no real barrier. It is a sweet candy coating that melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
Two: if a corporation is made of many incidental strangers who happen to share an employer for overlapping moments in time, and the system has at least one authorization bypass, then so does the audit trail.
If you don't think corporations implode, suffer from disgruntled criminal employees, sell out to rivals, go completely bankrupt, or land themselves in jail, then bet all of your secrets on the idea that what they tell you is 100% truth.
* Strong identity: employees must be strongly identified before acting.
* Multi-party authz: nobody ever acts alone. One person can't be trusted, two people might be, M of N effectively represents the company.
* Noisy security: making a change to security parameters notifies all relevant parties in a way that intentionally avoids notification fatigue. You can't sneak a change through.
* Full auditability: even after the fact you can readily unravel what was done, seeing what the old state was, what was changed, who made the change, and who approved it.
Get those points, and a few other minor details, and this larger problem actually becomes tractible.
The following isn't about Google as such: Thing with a disgruntled criminal employee is that they don't usually come in bunches and don't collude because they can't easily identify each other. Which means they can't generally commit such acts and then also corrupt a whole 'nother department to cover it up.
This doesn't protect against government action, and not at Google leadership specifically targetting you. But it does prevent the (rather common) abuse of such access by regular employees.
Could’ve fooled me. Or maybe your standards are just particularly low. Do you mind explaining where surveillance capitalism fits into your principled worldview?
I'm not entirely sure the old generic answers apply these days...
SOC seems to be the gold standard in terms of what enterprises are asking for, these days. Not that it addresses all the concerns as discussed here, but it does probably start to answer your question.
E&Y does (apparently), and Google is compliant with some ISO standard for software security. See "Does giving Google access to my data create a security risk? How does Google ensure that its employees do not pose a threat?"
As a security person I really can't think of any service (or piece of hardware) which I think satisfies the threat model where the provider is both clever and truly hostile.
You personally might not be able to do that (but then, you personally might not be able to spot a defective authenticated key exchange either), but people can. Once someone spots the "Signal Backdoor", that's it for Signal. There's a lot of incentive to do that legwork.
In contrast, G Suite could be comprehensively backdoored, and you'd have no way of knowing, no matter what your level of systems programming competence. I'm not saying they are backdoored; I rather doubt that they are, and I myself trust G Suite more than most other applications I use. But the point is, the trust you have to have in G Suite is different and more demanding than the trust you have to have in Signal.
Even if we can trust the binary (and I agree, with Signal as the example we probably can), the application distribution mechanism and the underlying OS and its update mechanisms are still a problem.
That's moving the goalposts to individual targeting, though. The individual targeting scenario is not that interesting because, as the winged quote from the technical literature goes, "YOU’RE STILL GONNA BE MOSSAD’ED UPON".
If you truly cared you wouldn't download it from Play Store and you wouldn't use a stock Android ROM.
Of course that moves the problem up to the firmware level but the attack space is getting narrower.
With G Suite you rely on trust from the ground up.
...I can. Disconnect from the internet.
It's a pain, and it won't be useful advice in many cases, but if you're a newsroom doing sensitive investigations on powerful individuals? I could make a case for it. Although, you'd want to ditch G Suite.
(You can certainly think up clever attacks that work without internet, but disconnecting really does remove most vectors.)
Instead of "trust us to keep your data", what if Google said "we don't have your data." That would give me more confidence, since it both makes the hostile actor's job much harder and it's also easier to verify.
We shouldn't start saying it for things that prove nearby but entirely different things just because we won't ever be able to say it definitively.
A lot of effort goes in to ensuring that audit trails are non-optional.
How do I get that list
Why would I, as a end user, be given to trust this if I think Google employees are snooping in my files? I have no way to audit how this is kept, so I'd have to assume that any Googler snooping these files is either doing so using a backchannel that is not audited or the log is a no-op.
If your worry is Google, as an organization, is actively trying to steal your stuff, that's one thing. If your worry is a rogue google employee is doing some unsanctioned thing, that's another. This (imo) mostly helps with the second, unless you also assume that Google as an organization is fairly inept and so can't log things reliably.
Government action that I'm left in the dark over.
If the government is interested in something from my mail servers, I'll see the legal request or judges orders and will know what is going on, and will be able to take appropriate action.
If the government makes appropriate legal threats against Google, I won't necessarily know (National Security Letters) until long after the fact.
But I don't think most people's threat model includes the US government. Probably not even most news organizations.
Or the mail servers of the person/people you're communicating with. At which point you wouldn't know, because they'd be subject to the same laws, and less well equipped to fight them.
The likelihood a company like Google is reading your emails directly and trying to scoop your business on a product idea or something like that is slim. The likelihood they are profiling your communications in aggregate and producing derivative information like "how many companies in the space are considering hiring" or "do the employees at this company talk about Chipotle" and using that for advertising or data products is, I would guess, pretty high.
I wouldn’t trust a company with personal data while their main business model depends on violating your privacy, just like you wouldn’t trust an alcoholic with guarding a warehouse full of vodka.
The only way to be somewhat sure is to deal with companies that have zero uses for your personal data - this will not mitigate the risk of a malicious employee poking around but will at least mitigate the risk of large-scale data misuse like ad targeting because there’s simply no ads to target and no infrastructure to do so.
> No. There are no ads in G Suite Services or Google Cloud Platform, and we have no plans to change this in the future. We do not scan for advertising purposes in Gmail or other G Suite services. Google does not collect or use data in G Suite services for advertising purposes.
There's both a risk of accidentally misusing data given the two services share infrastructure and code, as well as a business incentive to commit such "accidents", especially given both Facebook and Twitter set a precedent that there's absolutely no downside in doing so.
At the end of the day, you want to trust that your provider isn't out to get you, otherwise why are you even a customer (Oracle gets a free pass, because reasons). However, you want to know that they're serious about their claims, and transparency in their tools and processes is a big part of that.
I recently installed Collabora Online(a packaged version of LibreOffice Online) on my Nextcloud server and it is working fine for basic document editing. And with Nextcloud, I am also able to get comments and chat on the side. Maybe they can integrate this feature more into documents/files.
If you don’t want your data encrypted at rest, self-hosting with Sandstorm  would be a good choice.
Though it hasn’t happened yet (to my knowledge), putting CryptPad and Sandstorm together seems like a natural next step.
Edit: fix footnote numbering
Am I the only one who uses a (bridging) VPN to provide me with LAN-level access to an office-server, running Samba and locally hosting the office documents?
With Linux, OpenVPN and LibreOffice, my running costs are zero, and if you can install this yourself, so are your installation costs.
Wasn't this the standard before the cloud hype began? Was it too expensive/complicated/no experts available for SMOs?
Yes, I concur.
> Google Docs are in no doubt best and provide a lot of good functionality to its users. Even Office(365?) is getting good. LibreOffice is developing an online version which is at alpha stage I would say.
I'm having trouble understanding how you think Google Docs or Office 365 are open source.
I endorse this message. It's important that people understand how the technology they use works. Yes, Google Docs are stored in a format legible to the company. There were tool such that they could be included in legal holds or subpoenas. There were no access tools that Google or Googlers could read those documents directly, but they absolutely were included in legal discovery tooling. You should be aware of that fact, just as you should be aware that your enterprise can read (and include in response to subpoenas, etc) your e-mail.
Since the article mentioned TOS Violations as a potential threat vector, I'll also share an interesting anecdote: Journalists using Google Docs were one of our worst headaches. It was not uncommon for journalists to put Google Docs links, or internal links, into stories - It got used as an image sharing service a lot. At one point, there was insufficient (read: No) caching on some of the Google Spreadsheets "Graph" features... and the NY Times embedded an image generated by such into their homepage. The mechanism that prevented that from taking down all of google docs was the same one that prevents abuse. Documents with poor sharing properties are likely to trigger anti-abuse mechanisms, and get that TOS message in response. It's not personal, and quite frankly - I'm in agreement with the message, because while not intentional, it is abuse.
I would think that’s practically unavoidable if you want to support sharing of files and, in particular, concurrent editing.
I'd bet good money it's nowhere near as simple as "serving a text file".
Serving anything dynamic at thousands of QPS requires a lot of caching.
QPS = queries per second?
I got the impression that Google reading your documents was the source of distress in the parent comment.
Public documents in Google Docs are used as targets for spam or phishing campaigns pretty frequently. (The latter is usually by way of Google Forms, which can be used to drop content into a spreadsheet.) Google needs some way to allow this behavior to be flagged, and ideally to recognize it before it gets abused.
Private documents are another matter. Even there, though, I imagine they are obliged to scan some content, e.g. checking images against child pornography databases.
Nevermind my original comment then. That makes sense.
I'm sure it's just fine most of the time but I don't understand how people trust it for mission critical (or even just important) stuff.
One good google docs alternative is Zoho Writer (https://zoho.com/writer).
Zoho doesn't do funny business scanning content for Ads. You pay and you use the software, that's all (Source: I work @ Zoho). Even better, Zoho offers APIs to use just the editors, while allowing companies to retain their data within their own cloud - https://www.zoho.com/officeplatform/integrator/
For full protection, even against legal government requests, we might have to look at self-hosted solutions, which are again not very mature to call themselves a viable Google Docs alternative.
Its Google, they scan all they can and apologize later
Below some g apps user was locked out of a single document for alleged Tos violations.
Clearly, some scanning is going on.
If you upload important documents or data to Google, as a firm especially, you are out of your mind.
We're still working through our security and encryption protocols, but would love to hear from you what your concerns may be - from the incredibly sensitive investigations to run of the mill police blotter stories.
I'd love to talk to you - jared AT nillium DOT com
- Dmail (Gmail alternative): https://www.dmail.online/
- Recall (Google Photos alternative): https://app.recall.photos/
- Arcane Office (Google Docs/Office alternative): https://docs.arcaneoffice.com/
- Forms.id (Google Forms alternative): https://forms.id/
- Arcane Maps (Google Maps alternative): https://arcanemaps.com/
Regular run off the mill Google employee (even one working on G Suite) can't see anything of course. But I have no doubt there is a small group of Google employees who can see whatever the hell Google wants to see.
That said I don't quite get what the motivation would be, unless the reporting in question could be of material consequence to Google.
I think US government is a far more worrisome attack vector.
Filewatch doesn't get any information about you or your files, no information about your files leaves your browser.
I just tried your tool. Pretty nice.
I think it would be helpful to add a filter:
- only files with other users
(Include any 'anyone with the link' files in the above)
Thanks for sharing your tool on HN.
Don't do sensitive work on free services...
They claim that it "integrates the power of GPG into almost any application via the macOS Services context menu. It allows you to encrypt/decrypt, sign/verify text selections, files, folders and much more."