When Internet search engine company Google introduced a new desktop search engine for computers October 14, it was seen as just the latest audacious move by this technological David, going up against the Goliath of Microsoft.
But in recent days the Internet buzz, from chat rooms to expert forums, has been less about Google's bold move and more about the potential loss of privacy associated with this new tool.
Experts say the new search engine, which is downloaded and installed on individual computers, could expose users' private information if they use shared computers. If, for example, you check your email on a computer at the library or at an Internet caf - and that computer has the desktop search engine, whoever uses the computer after you could pull out private information from emails you sent or received or Web sites you visited.
That becomes a real problem, for example, if you just accessed a site that requires a password, experts say.
The desktop search engine automatically records email that downloaded and read through Microsoft Outlook products and pages pulled up in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. It can also track files stored in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Google points out that the initial release was a beta test, and that refinements are being made. One of those refinements may be advanced features like password protection and multiuser support, a company official said.
Google says users of shared computers can look for an indicator in the system tray at the lower fight corner of the computer screen. If there is a multicolored swirl visible, it means the software is loaded and running. The company said its software can be disabled to prevent the user's movements from being tracked.