Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Fred Langa gets it wrong, again

Fred Langa’s latest article is up, and this time he turns his attentions to Google and whether there are privacy issues with using too many of its services. The first two pages are okay, but on the start of the third page he makes this statement:

My recommendation is to use Google’s services, but with caution, and only when it makes sense. The main Google search engine is still unrivalled, for example: It makes sense to use it. But there are many local desktop-search tools available; and, being local, they keep their indexes and search results local and private. Why would you really need a Google-based desktop search? The short answer is: You don’t.

Fred seems to get the impression that Google Desktop Search stores its indexes on Google’s servers. It doesn’t. Just like pretty much every other desktop search tool, its indexes are stored locally, in the user’s local application data folder (C:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Local Settings\Application Data\Google\Google Desktop Search or equivalent). Even in a network environment they are only stored on the local machine and not on a central file store. Fred’s claim that it doesn’t is just plain wrong.

I used to really trust Fred’s views but recently his articles appear to have been written in a rush and without proper fact-checking – he was guilty of it with a Firefox article last month. Now I don’t feel as if I can take his ideas so seriously, which is a shame since I used to respect him a lot.


  1. Wow. That’s a pretty embarassing mistake. As scary (woooo!) as google can be, I don’t think there is any need to make up false information.
    Maybe Fred is getting something on the side (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) for bad mouthing google desktop search by one of it’s competitors?

  2. I tried to sign up for the newsletter, but I just get a 403 Forbidden error. I suppose it’s better than the 404 I got when I last tried. Heh.

  3. I’ve always been of the opinion that privacy is only of concern to people who have something to hide.
    I also think that there should be a distinction made between personal information being read by a robot and personal information being accessible to a human. I remember when a big fuss was being made about gmail having access to your email and using it to serve adverts, the way it was reported in the mainstream press would have someone believe that a human was looking at your personal correspondents. Such rubbish, a computer doesn’t think like a human, it doesn’t have feelings so why should it being able to scan your personal info be of any concern to you?

  4. Although the indexes are indeed held locally, GDS does send a considerable amount of information back to google, basically a summary of what was searched for, how long it took, was it successful and so on. It can be disabled, but defaults to being ON.
    They have been recording this kind of usage data anonymously for years on the web search side, but what makes this different is that every install of Google Desktop Search carries a unique identifier – so that data is no longer truly anonymous. Everything you google is inextricably recorded against that identifier – which is some serious marketing knowledge when you think about it.
    Want to market your spam to users with very large personal jpeg collections of donkeys? – now google can help. 🙂