Google, Privacy and Buzz

Google moved quickly to contain a firestorm of criticism over Buzz, its new social network, taking the unusual step of announcing changes to the product over the weekend to address privacy problems.

Late Saturday, Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, wrote in a blog post that Google had decided to alter one of the most vehemently criticized features in Buzz: the ready-made circle of friends that Buzz gives new users based on their most frequent e-mail and chat contacts. Now, instead of automatically connecting people, Buzz merely suggests to new users a group of people that they may want to follow or want to be followed by. ....


Critics Say Google Invades Privacy With New Service

SAN FRANCISCO — When Google introduced Buzz — its answer to Facebook and Twitter — it hoped to get the service off to a fast start. New users of Buzz, which was added to Gmail on Tuesday, found themselves with a ready-made network of friends automatically selected by the company based on the people that each user communicated with most frequently through Google’s e-mail and chat services.

Google's decision to use e-mail and chat as the basis of a social network was unfair and deceptive, some critics claimed.

Related

With Buzz, Google Plunges Into Social Networking(February 10, 2010)

Times Topics: Google Inc.

Readers' Comments

But what Google viewed as an obvious shortcut stirred up a beehive of angry critics. Many users bristled at what they considered an invasion of privacy, and they faulted the company for failing to ask permission before sharing a person’s Buzz contacts with a broad audience. For the last three days, Google has faced a firestorm of criticism on blogs and Web sites, and it has already been forced to alter some features of the service.


Comments

JL said…
To my mind this 'little' episode demonstrates just how saleable corporate ethics are.

It seems that the right to privacy of Buzz users ranks lower in the ethical food chain than the need for a new product launch to quickly capture market share from Twitter and Facebook.

It's not as though Google is some overnight start up ISP without resources to have corporate counsel cast its eye over new products. So, for mine, the apology is somewhat thin and smacks more of a "beg for forgiveness, rather than ask for permission" approach. "Ooops ... we're sorry."

So, who regulates indiscretions such as this? What sanction is applied to Google for this 'oversight'? For me, it alarming just how much information about us big corporates possess and just how mercenary they are clearly prepared to be in its use.

In light of this It's hard to view any of Google's posturing on freedom of speech in China as anything other than a poorly disguised grab for greater access to a 1.3 billion person market.

So much for the laudable Google Code of Conduct "Don't do evil".

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