Google Buzz: Privacy concerns grab gov't attention, hint at desperation

Google Buzz: Privacy concerns grab gov't attention, hint at desperation

Summary: Google is under fire over privacy concerns. Was this a push to play catch up with other social networks?


Google Buzz continues to draw headlines - and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Up in Canada, public concerns over privacy in Google Buzz has grabbed the attention of the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. At issue is the way Google used Gmail contact information to kickstart Buzz by placing contacts into a user's network. Yesterday, the agency confirmed that it is looking into Buzz and could possibly have more to say about it as early as today, according to a CBC News report.

Back in the states, the Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a complaint (PDF) with the Federal Trade Commission, arguing that Buzz violates consumer protection law. That group is calling for more changes to the service, including greater control over the service's settings.

I have to agree that the idea of people in my Gmail contacts list being automatically linked to my Google Buzz account was unsettling, especially because many people in that list aren't necessarily people I would be connected to in either a social or professional collaboration setting.

It's one thing to ask for permission to tap into my Gmail contacts list for the sake of suggesting other potential Buzz buddies, the same way Facebook, MySpace and Twitter started. The thing Google seems to have forgotten is that no one creates an instant social network - not in real life and not in an online world. My networks of Facebook friends and Twitter followers wasn't in placer from Day One. It took months. even years, to build those networks. to make those connections and to start sharing.

Quite frankly, there's a hint of desperation in Google's decision to thrust us into an instant social network. Is the company so late to the game, so far behind the others, that it has to try to close that gap quickly, without allowing the time for those networks to grow virally on their own?

Google Buzz has a lot of problems and things don't seem to be getting better. But Google certainly hasn't given up on Buzz. Statements issued today, in response to the complaint about the FTC matter, suggest that more improvements are coming. After all, Google said at Buzz's unveiling that Buzz was a work-in-progress and that it wanted some feedback so it could make improvements.

Just goes to show that you have to be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.

Topics: Browser, Cloud, Collaboration, Google, Legal, Networking

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  • Google has a HUGE problem here. They are

    so late to the game that it may be too late. I'll agree, it sounds like it could be a move born out of desparation.

    If you think about it, in 2009 the phrase was "Google us on the web", now it's "Visit us on Facebook".

    It appears that Google doesn't handle rejection very well.
    John Zern
    • I agree...

      "Follow us on twitter"
    • Facebook and Twitter break Google's tyranny

      With Facebook and Twitter, one can bypass search engine tyranny. It isn't necessary to sweat trying to get a spot on the first page of search results or to buy an ad spot there, any longer. (maniacal laughter)
      Improper Username
    • Biggest problem is limited user base.

      I'll be the first to say that I very much disliked Google throwing people into my Buzz contact list. In fact, I won't create a public profile and I shut Buzz off. Maybe I'll use it someday, maybe I won't.

      Right now, I can't see any reason to use Buzz. Only some of my contacts use Gmail and/or have Google accounts. Basically, it seems that unless you have a Google account, you can't use Buzz.

      If that is true, then why on earth would all the people using FaceBook switch to Google Buzz? Same for Twitter. It's just pointless.
      • Buzz should have been a completely separate LAB feature

        I wonder how many people got busted., when their whole contact list whas forwarded to someone else through the buzz auto on feature last week.

        Irresponsible and downright foolish?

        You decide.
    • Blunder

      I think this is going to go down as one of the biggest technological blunders of the year!
      • I disagree

        These days the majority of users wouldn't recognize a "blunder" if it shot them in the face. If they do smell the slightest whiff of a rat they're over it before they're done shrugging.

        I give us less than 50 years and it's THX 1138 made manifest...
    • Google is the new Microsoft

      Google's violation of user rights and outrageous disregard of normal boundaries is a function its own "surround and conquer" strategies.

      I won't install chrome on my system because I won't give anyone permission to "update" my system at will and without my scrutiny. Forced updates remove the user's right to a stable system.

      As an Australian, Google's scan the worlds books project with a deal with an [b]American[/b] court which has [b]NO[/b] jurisdiction here but still they intend to bully Australian authors and publishers into accepting their crummy deal.

      It's about time Google's monopolies were investigated and its various divisions like the book monopoly (enforced by that American court decision) and its search etc were broken up in some enforced way like Bell telephone was forced to split up.
      • Monopolies

        Going off slightly on a tangent, if you hate book monopolies so much, what about the monopoly that Australian publishers have for the works of Australian authors? That's what the ban on parallel imports of books amount to. Another example of desperately clinging on the the old regime when the rest of the world has moved on. Unforunately the government can't see through it or are being pressured/lobbied by the publishing industry.
      • Agreed

        I have been saying that for awhile.

    • You make a good point there.

      Facebook is quickly becoming THE destination on the web if not the web itself.
  • I won't use Buzz

    I have a very large number of e-mail addresses in my address book. Most of them I inherited from various jobs, projects, consultations, etc and I don't want to form a social network with any of them.

    For me there is a clear line between exchanging an e-mail with someone and collaborating socially with someone. Even if it is a business collaboration I understand there will be some back and forth and a social network may make sense. But not all of my e-mail contacts fall into that category.

    In fact my contacts are so large in number that if I had to "opt-out" each one I did NOT want in a social web, I would have to take 5 vacation days and do nothing but sort through contacts.

    If Google had allowed me to build my own social network with some of my gmail contacts and some of the contacts I have from non-gmail users, I might have looked at the service.

    But for me, to many of my contacts rely on me keeping their information private. Google screwed up on this one.
    • What About Yahoo and Live? They've done the same thing! ;)

      I have three web mail accounts. One each with M$
      Live, Yahoo Mail and Google's Gmail. All of them
      have recently been accessing my list of friends and
      addresses in an effort to get you connected with
      each other. Yahoo is the most obvious and they
      include MS Hot Mail and Live users. In fact it's
      atrocious how they are soliciting connections w/o
      your permission for a connect up. Which is now
      being inundated with spam users trying to connect
      to you!

      So to me Buzz is really not offensive at all
      compared to these competitors and Facebook is
      loaded with apps ripping off your information and
      constantly requesting that you grant access to
      these predatory application abusers!

      How is Google Buzz any different? I'll how!
      are constantly given choice and the check boxes are
      never pre-selected! ;)
      • Yahoo didn't...

        Since I didn't receive loads of angry emails, Yahoo didn't automatically send invitations to everyone in my address book (apparently Google did).

        • NOT True and You're in denial! :D

          I have tons of cross over garbage in my Yahoo
          Account with Chat from MSN Live. Invites coming
          out my ears from my friends list/address book
          and many I've never
          heard of before!

          You don't even have to use Buzz and if you say
          you do, then you're full of ****. I have
          received no invites except from people I
          actually know in Gmail for Buzz. If don't
          actually have a Gmail account, why the hell are
          you morons claiming this as fact? Google is
          going to win this hands down. You don't think
          they had their lawyers on this before it
          launched? They not Facebook selling your info
          and automatically locking you into an account
          you can NEVER REALLY CLOSE!!!

          They're not Yahoo either in desperate need of
          cash, so they make a deal with the devil

          In the end this will all be laughable and
          whoever they get as a judge on this case will
          toss it in a heartbeat! haha... ;)
          • That didn't happen to me

            Well it didn't happen to me.

            I don't use Yahoo Chat anyway. I had problems with it always trying to turn itself on (It never connected to anyone though). I think that they changed it because when I complained, they told me how to turn it off.

            Following their instructions, it turned off and I haven't had a problem with it since (I was sure that I had done what they suggested, before I had even complained, so that's why I think they changed it).

          • Re: NOT True...

            Yahoo! is not getting any complaints about privacy that Google is, so they must be doing something right. Yahoo! has had this feature for months without a single new article about it.

            Yes, you can get spam friend requests, but can easily turn that off.
  • just cheap shots

    taken by M$ monkey boy and fed to the media to deflect attention.
    Linux Geek
    • ... Uh?

      Once aggain you try to deflect towards MS, something that Google did stupidly.

      I am not suprised of the Commission of Privacy of Canada's decision to look intro goodle's blunder(they actually sued Facebook btw).

      I would have the same stance for every compagny...

      dont attack my privacy...

      PS: your just frustrated that Google did something stupid and youre trying to deflect the attention towards MS... instead of giving us a good argument for Google's blunder...
      • it was no blunder

        sleeper M$ agents instigated the watchdogs agaist it.
        Linux Geek