Google Buzz Under The Privacy Commissioner Lens

by Gaurav Kheterpal on February 18, 2010

Google Buzz - An Invasion of privacy?

Google Buzz - An Invasion of privacy?

Google Buzz is creating a lot of Buzz for Google – albeit for the wrong reasons – for a start, it left significant loopholes open when Buzz was launched and now it’s under the lens for ‘privacy’ concerns in both Canada and United States. 

Google tried to cover up the initial privacy flaws by fixing it and calling it ‘A New Buzz start-up experience based on your feedback‘. It seems that one company hasn’t learned from the mistakes that Facebook made at least as far as privacy is concerned. Anyway, even though the security flaw has been fixed, Google is still in a spot of bother for ‘Buzz’. 

In Canada, it is being investigated by the Office of Privacy Commissioner on account of public concerns regarding privacy issues in Buzz. Valerie Lawton, the spokeswoman for the privacy office says 


We understand the public concern about privacy issues related to Google Buzz. Our office is looking at the issue. An update may be available  on Wednesday.” 

So, what’s the whole debate about? What sets apart Google Buzz from Facebook and Myspace as far as privacy is concerned. With Google Buzz, users can update their status, share news, photos and videos and directly link them to real time feeds on Twitter and Picasa. However, the place where Google got it wrong is when it chose to ‘Automatically add email contacts as followers’ thereby exposing a user’s privacy to others. I’m surprised and honestly disappointed that despite learning the hard way in China and Iran, Google messed up big time with privacy on Buzz. 

Mind you, Google Buzz is not the first and only social networking tool to be under the lens from Privacy Commissioner’s office in Canada. Last summer, the office pulled up Facebook and and forced changes in Facebook policies to protect Canadian’s privacy rights. In the United States, the U.S Federal Trade Commission is already reviewing complaints regarding Google Buzz violating privacy laws. 

Google has acknowledged that the matter is being discussed with the office of Privacy Commissioner but it does not call it an ‘Investigation’. The official statement from Google says 

“We had an in-depth discussion with her about how Google Buzz works and about the changes we made. We’re always happy to hear from privacy commissioners in Canada and in other countries. We regularly brief them on new products and features either before or just following launch, both as a courtesy to them and as a way to get valuable feedback on our products.”

So, will Google Buzz manage to come out with a clean slate? Only, time (and Privacy Commissioner’s office) will tell!

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSSTwitter,Identi.ca, or Friendfeed

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