The issue was reportedly first discovered by Kelly Shortridge, a cyber-security expert at Security Scorecard. Google has denied that their tools are improperly scanning user files, but Shortridge said she stands by her claims.
Shortridge reported that she noticed Google’s anti-virus tool was scanning files in her personal documents folder on her Windows PC.
She said it made her very uncomfortable that Google was scanning and possibly collecting her personal data.
In a series of tweets, she details her findings and what she believes Google has been doing.
She explained how the Chrome Cleanup Tool, a browser component that scans and removes malicious software, is the culprit behind the controversial scanning.
When the tool was first introduced in 2014, it was an add-on that Chrome users would install to clear malware and other heavy bloatware installed on their computers.
But in Oct. 2017, Google brought on the firm Mountain View to make the tool a compulsory part of the Chrome installation — meaning users weren’t aware that it was automatically installed.
The new report exposing Google’s invasive practices on their user’s personal data follows numerous reports that Facebook was carrying out a slew of similar actions to peer into its user’s private information.
Last week, Facebook was exposed for scanning personal content that the users send and receive in private on Facebook Messenger.
Earlier this month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed those reports during an interview with Vox.com, saying that the company has been carrying out the intrusive practices for “safety purposes.”
Prior to that, Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, Christoper Wylie, testified before a group of British MP’s that the Facebook app allows the company to listen and spy on users through their personal devices.
Zuckerberg will be testifying soon before Congress about those allegations and many others, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai may soon be forced to do the same.
But more importantly, the report exposing Google illustrates the most powerful tech companies in the world are collecting user data like a surveillance agency.
It’s unclear what happens next for Google and Facebook, but both companies are in a lot of trouble for their intrusive actions.