Google Buzz Privacy Issues Have Real Life Implications

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Merging something designed for public broadcasting (Buzz) with something inherently private (Gmail) was just looking for trouble.

Google is -deservedly – getting a lot of heat for the fact that its latest social product has a number of privacy flaws baked into it by design.

They’ve since made some improvements to the product, but that’s not where the story ends.

Some people think the complaints are unwarranted and the issues not all that bad, while some think it’s mostly annoying and others don’t even know there are issues yet (or that Google launched something new at all). And then there those whose lives are already being impacted by the privacy loopholes in Google Buzz – and not all in a good way.

See for example this story of an anonymous woman who writes a (self-proclaimed) feminist blog, which she started after leaving an abusive marriage. (found on Hacker News)

Hint: the title is ‘Fuck you, Google’.

An excerpt:

I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother.

There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent” contacts.

You know who my third most frequent contact is?

My abusive ex-husband.

Which is why it’s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I’ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did.

You can read the rest of the story in the blog post, but needless to say this woman is justifiably very angry with the Mountain View company.

Now, I’m sure some of our readers will have an answer ready. That she should have changed this setting or not have touched that one, but that would be beside the point. Which is that even with the improvements that were made to the Buzz product, Google is confusing the hell out of people here – and make some lives hell for them to boot.

Expect more stories like this.

(Hat tip to Alex Kaminski, photo credit Flickr / sunside)

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