Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Privacy Concerns Are All the Buzz

Google jumped on the social media bandwagon, but it's not going as well as Google had hoped.

Last week, Google launched Google Buzz, a social media service built right into Gmail, Google’s webmail tool.

Cue: immediate backlash from many users and privacy experts alike.

Initially, Google Buzz auto-populated a social network for Gmail users based on a user’s frequent contacts, potentially revealing relationships the user would rather not publicly announce. Buzz also automatically linked up other Google services (Google Reader, for example).

In response to user privacy worries, Google announced changes to Buzz twice within the first four days of its launch.

Despite those changes, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission yesterday, for what it called unfair and deceptive trade practices. In its complaint, EPIC asks the FTC to investigate Google Buzz for business practices it believes “violated user privacy expectations, diminished user privacy, contradicted Google’s own privacy policy, and may have also violated federal wiretap laws.” (In December, EPIC filed a similar complaint against Facebook after the popular social networking site changed its privacy settings.).

CBC News has also reported that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada will be taking a closer look at Google Buzz due to increasing privacy concerns, as well.

The woes don’t stop there. CNET News reports that security experts identified a security problem with the Buzz for Mobile service, making Google Buzz accounts susceptible to hacking. Although Google has already corrected the problem, this was just one more snag Google didn’t anticipate.

Yikes.  That's one rough week, Google.

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