Google+ faces first social networking privacy flaw

Google+ faces first social networking privacy flaw

Summary: The fledgling Google+ social network has run up against its first major privacy complaint, as reports circulate of a bug that lets private content run wild through Circles.

TOPICS: Legal, Security

The fledgling Google+ (Google Plus) social network has run up against its first major privacy complaint, as reports circulate of a bug that lets users "reshare" any content with anyone else, no matter which supposedly-private Circle they happen to belong to.

The way it works is this: Take any content in your stream - for instance, photos someone else posted to their "Coworkers" circle -  and click the "reshare" button, and you have the option to have those photos appear to anyone else. You can even make those photos public for all to see.

In theory, it's supposed to be the Google+ version of Twitter's "retweet" or Tumblr's "reblog" functions. In practice, two clicks can basically destroy the trust that the whole Google+ approach to Circles-based social networking is designed to build.

Early adopters of Google+ can apparently disable resharing on individual posts before they go live, but once it's published, it's out of your hands. Moreover, users can't yet turn off resharing entirely from within their settings.

The Financial Times, which was the first to notice and report on this loophole, contacted Google, which promises that fixes are imminent and that this kind of thing is part of field testing the product.

But in the wake of the Google Buzz privacy scandals, which resulted in the FTC having to step in, Google+ can't afford this kind of bad PR. And that goes double when "privacy" is the core concept of the Google+ project in the first place.

Update: As pointed out in the comments, it looks like a partial fix is now available, as a drop-down menu has been enabled for users to disable resharing after a post has already been made.

Topics: Legal, Security

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  • This is unfair criticism

    If my wife or workmate shares a private photo, how they choose to share it is irrelevant. It's a breach of trust, not a fault with the postal system or scrapbook.
    John Smith 9188237-24156184836505613473186128267319
  • This loophole seems very uninteresting to me...

    How would anyone stop you from saving the image (or whatever) and re-publishing it yourself? Sure, it's a bit more work than two clicks, and it might not show where it originally came from, but the problem persists...
  • RE: Google faces first social networking privacy flaw

    Matthew, its not a live service yet. Its trail so, there is no point in saying "Google+ faces first social networking privacy flaw". If you got access to the trail version your responsibility is to send them feedback as a good citizen and not bash. Don't forget you got access to trial.
    • Agreed.

      Matthew is only going for the easy headline. You can't say it's a flaw if the target group is restricted.

      It amazes me how ZdNet will report a flaw on a Alpha stage product from Google as a big deal, and always subdue mayor Microsoft flaws on RELEASED software.

      Take IE9. ZdNet "silently" reported on 9.01 which had several critical failures. But, if Google patches things, it's a BIG DEAL.
  • RE: Google faces first social networking privacy flaw

    As you say "Early adopters of Google+ can *apparently* disable resharing", I am going to assume that you don't have access to Google+ and ask why you are writing an article about a product you don't know?
  • RE: Google faces first social networking privacy flaw

    There's also this video, posted by a Googler, that highlights this issue. Hence the "field trial" stat of G+ at the moment.

    They don't want the service going public before they get people to find these types of issues. I think they're doing a great job!
    Joshua Talley
  • is it really flaw?

    Nobody can be responsible for what others can do with their posts. <br>If post was private for particular circle, on "reshare action", original post author should receive some kind of indication, that Friend "John" reshared your item for his circles,- and original post user could decide what to do next i.e. remove John from trusted circles or send personal message... <br><br>I don`t have G+ so maybe that`s how it is in the first place.