Google has to make and hold certain copies of content to provide the service. Clearly if I create or upload a document, it must have at least one copy on a Google server and probably backup copies as well. If I put a video up on Youtube, I must grant Google the performance rights to present that to the public since that is the intended use. And this blog entry is another example, Google must be able to display it publicly --- and in reality that means a copy gets transferred to every viewer's browser (and may reside there in a cache or temp file for some period even if they do not chose to "save" the web page -- which of course is an apparent copyright violation as well.
But, Google Docs and Drive have a different objective (in my mind) and should have different rules. I want to have a spot where I can have content stored in the cloud, accessible by more than one of my computers, and in some cases shared with family or associates, etc. It is not my intent to allow this content to become available on the public web, etc. In fact, some content I have with financial and/or other personal information is content I'd like to store on the cloud, share between my computers but not have visible for any other users.
So here is an excerpt from the March 1, 2012 version of Google's Service Agreement:
Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones. This license continues even if you stop using our Services (for example, for a business listing you have added to Google Maps). Some Services may offer you ways to access and remove content that has been provided to that Service. Also, in some of our Services, there are terms or settings that narrow the scope of our use of the content submitted in those Services. Make sure you have the necessary rights to grant us this license for any content that you submit to our Services.
And herein some problems lie. The right granted to Google to create derivative works is un-bounded (I'm an author, I might want to store my short stories or novel in the cloud); the public display and distribution of content is antithetical to my desire to have content I consider private stored in the cloud.
There are additional terms of service for Apps:
By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through Google services which are intended to be available to the members of the public, you grant Google a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, adapt, modify, publish and distribute such Content on Google services for the purpose of displaying, distributing and promoting Google services. Google reserves the right to syndicate Content submitted, posted or displayed by you on or through Google services and use that Content in connection with any service offered by Google.This at least acknowledges the issue of "which are intended to be available to members of the public". There is also additional wording about confidential materials, but it is unclear how I might flag content as confidential, and without such indication, how I could hold Google responsible for treating it the same way they might treat other materials.
I'm not alone in my concerns here, other articles have been posted related to concerns with the terms of service. Security Watch, ZDNet which has it wrong -- Google is not assuming ownership, just too many non-exclusive rights. New Legal Review provides some feedback from Google on these matters -- pointing to one underlying issue which is the use of commonly applied legal phrasing that is out of date with respect to the kinds of services being offered.
Some folks are paranoid about Google being forced to share content with US Government agencies (or other legal jurisdictions depending on where the data/user reside) ... which is simply a fact of life. Government entities have some rights (ideally with due process, but not always) that they can exercise to obtain your files. A recent Wired Magazine alluded to an NSA facility being built in Utah, which they say will have a copy of everything on the web, all emails, all phone calls, etc - world wide. That appears to be a bit beyond NSA's remit at this point, but some subset of this is likely to be true. There is a revenue opportunity for the US Government in this --- NSA could provide a cloud data storage service, it would avoid redundancy. Moreover, I suspect they have better security than Google, and their terms of service are likely to be less ambiguous.