Google Reader: Google playing with your privacy

Google has released a “new user interface for Reader.” According to Google, the release “addresses many issues that users have had.

Google has released a “new user interface for Reader.” According to Google, the release “addresses many issues that users have had.” 

The “issues” Google characterizes of prime importance to the Google Reader users of its play thing in the Google “technology playground”:

mark all as read, being able to see more than one post at once, unread counts, etc.


Google invasion of user privacy is not mentioned.


Google invites all to “Use Google's web-based feed reader to keep track of your favorite web sites.”


How about Google? Google, the $122 billion market cap company, will be keeping track of “your favorite Web sites” every Internet step of the way.


Google disclaims all of its Google Labs play things as not “ready for prime time”: 

Google labs showcases a few of our favorite ideas that aren't quite ready for prime time. Your feedback can help us improve them. Please play with these prototypes and send your comments directly to the Googlers who developed them.


Google’s labeling of products it releases to the public as “prototypes” for “play” does not make the products’ privacy risks fun and games.

Last November "Gnash" asked in the Google Reader Labs Google Groups, “Privacy: What details of a user's subscription list and post views are stored by Google?": 

I'm curious about what details are stored remotely by Google.

The existing subscription list is naturally associated with the user's account, but, after a subscription is cancelled, does a record of that past subscription remain?  In other words, is it possible to determine every subscription ever held by a user, whether currently subscribed or not?

I'm sure starred posts are associated with an account, just as current subscriptions, but are remote records created documenting all posts actually viewed by a user?

I'm not a privacy nut, just a law school student testing the waters for a possible paper topic.  Today, requests are occassionally made on libraries to reveal what books a person has checked out.  At some point, I expect those same requests will be made on Google for a person's Reader subscriptions.  But, Google's not quite a library and a person's Reader subscriptions are not quite books. I'd like to measure these differences against the law and precedents to see if I can figure out what new issues may arise.

Gnash did not receive any user replies to his question on Google Reader privacy implications and he did not receive any explanation from Google.

Gnash may seek to assuage that he is not a privacy “nut,” but it would be in his best interest, and in the best interest of all Google Reader users, to get nuts over Google’s goal to “organize” all of the world's users’ “personal information.”

In “Google CEO Eric Schmidt: ‘all world’s information includes personal information’ I cite Schmidt:

all the world's information includes personal information

 In “Free Google Gmail: The High price you pay” I put forth:

Do you believe the contents of every personal and business email you ever write or send should be recorded and permanently archived on third party servers located in countries throughout the world, to which you have no access?

If you are one of the millions of GMail users, you have indicated to Google that you most certainly do.

Google Reader users should be asking themselves the same questions. 


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