Google offers so many services and personalisation that it is tempting to log in and not bother logging out. You first connect to Google via your Personalised Home Page, look at your RSS feeds in Google Reader, and then do some Blogger work. You know that you are going to be working on one of your Google Documents so no point in logging out. If, like me, you spend most of your time working at home that is no big deal. No-one else, apart from your SO or the sprogs, are going to mosey on in to your Google ‘space’. (Actually – it might be a seriously big deal but we won’t go into the ramifications of that).
If you are at work, however, where everyone grabs a free terminal wherever and whenever they can, you could find yourself in deep doo-doo. Your arch rival, who is threatening to overtake you on the scrabble up the corporate greasy pole, fires up Google intending to read their own Google Mail but discovers that they can access yours instead – and everything else!. Google does not time you out – and neither does My Yahoo which has a similar set-up. As well as reading all that you have been up to over the last year or so, they could sabotage your account by enabling the search history and conducting “unsavoury” searches and …. well, it doesn’t require much imagination to envisage what could happen.
This can, though, work in reverse. Set up a blemish free Google account with search history enabled, log in, leave it and wait for people to pounce on your unoccupied PC for their lunch-time surfing. Amazing what you could discover. This occurred to me after Phil Bradley and I had given our ‘De-mystifying Web 2.0’ presentation at the LIS last week in Birmingham. I had logged on to my demo Google account but completely forgot to log out at the end. As I went up to the podium on a damage limitation exercise I saw one of the afternoon presenters Googling away. As soon as I was home I went in to my Google account to have a look at what he had been researching. I regret to say that it was all very boring – North Carolina State University 🙁
Better luck next time.