Friday, February 12, 2010

Privacy's a Sensitive Subject

If you've got Gmail, you probably saw an option to add Google Buzz. I'm on it now, and I can see it finding a place in my heart in the future, but there are a number of people who say that it's a privacy nightmare.

Why? Well, Information Week explains that:

Some of those complaining online about Buzz have claimed that the service has exposed their contact information to people who have threatened them or outed the confidential sources of journalists.
I've had no issues with information exposure. Google connected me to 32 people with whom I email pretty regularly, and I easily made those connections private. However, unwanted sharing is something to look out for.

If you've signed up (or not) and you want more information about how to prevent sharing, check out Buzz Off: Disabling Google Buzz.

This is terrible PR for Google, regardless of how big the danger is. My takeaways:

  1. Privacy is very important to some people - more important than ease of use. In this case, Google put ease of adoption above privacy on its list of priorities. Trouble is the result.
  2. The trouble might not be as big as the web is making it out to be - the dissatisfaction may be the loud voice of an upset minority (who may have a right to be upset). We'll see how it affects Google's image in the long run. My guess is that the image won't be hurt much.
 Update:  Critics Say Google Invades Privacy With New Service is the top article in the Technology Section of the paper on 2/13/2010 (though it hasn't made the top 10 articles list overall).