The Latest Google Buzz: Death to privacy !

by Matt Klassen on February 15, 2010

As if the world needed another way to share the smallest and most uninteresting minutia of everyday life, Google has given us one more. This past week the Google unleashed the Buzz upon the world, their latest half-assed effort into the world of social networking, amidst serious privacy concerns that have left many users bitter and upset.

The world’s most popular search engine touts the Google Buzz as a “new approach to sharing,”  a service that offers users a one-stop social networking experience. Fully integrated into the company’s widely used Gmail email service, the Buzz is designed, in part, to challenge the dominance of existing networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter by allowing Gmail users to instantly share regular updates with people on their email list, providing a quick and easy way to share thoughts, photos, and links.

The hope is, of course, that Google will be able to leverage the success of Gmail into an instant client base for the Buzz, but has it succeeded? Seeing as many Buzz users are rallying around one woman’s impassioned cry of, “F*** you Google!” I would say ‘no.’

The problem, as reported by the National Post, is that Google has failed to recognize and respond to the same privacy issues that have plagued Facebook and Twitter for years. Google’s intent was to provide users a cohesive and integrated experience, helping users better organize their online activities, and so the Buzz operates on the basic algorithmic assumption that you want to follow the people you email and want them to follow you.

Of course in reality things are often never that simple, which is why Facebook took steps to both require approval for all friend requests before they can see your profile and allow users to set different levels of access to their profile for their various types of contacts. But, in true Google fashion, they have simply run roughshod over all sane privacy considerations. After creating a profile on Google Buzz, the default setting automatically posts your name, photo, those you follow you, and who you follow, to the entire world. While you can opt-out of these features, if Facebook has taught us anything, it’s that that regular users won’t.

That fact is, just because someone is on my email list doesn’t necessarily mean I want to talk to them. Do I need my friends, my editors, my college professors, or my parents to have access to all the same information? Google attempts to justify this auto-allow feature as a way of providing “as minimal set up as possible,” but the issue is, and always will be, that the average user simply doesn’t realize what they are sharing, and with whom.

In the end, it is absolutely unacceptable for the Google Buzz to not be able to distinguish between public and private, personal and business, and in my mind it is such a serious miscarriage of corporate privacy responsibility that it borders on both the unethical and illegal. WTF are you thinking Google!?

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{ 3 trackbacks }

Google Buzz Under The Privacy Commissioner Lens —
August 13, 2012 at 3:52 am
Buzz Update: Google Responds —
August 13, 2012 at 3:53 am
2010 in Tech: The Elusive Concept of Privacy —
August 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

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