[Air-L] Privacy Buzz

Justin Reedy jsreedy at gmail.com
Sun Feb 14 10:26:02 PST 2010

Great question, Aziz -- I'm surprised it seemed to take this long for Google
Buzz to come up on this list.

I, for one, am surprised at how poorly Google seems to have handled this
entire program. The automatic opt-in, the automatic harvesting of email
contacts, the connections to others' accounts -- some of Buzz's features
could be quite helpful in a world free of private correspondence and
compartmentalized connections. But we don't live in a world like that, and
Google seems to have failed to grasp that entirely in making Buzz.

It is much like early iterations of Gmail -- I saw a blog post pointing out
how Gmail didn't have a delete button when it first launched, because Google
wondered why one would ever need to delete an email with as much storage
space as they were offering. This represented a naive sort of ignorance on
Google's part -- of course there are reasons beyond space constraints for
deleting emails! Emails to an attorney, conversations with an ex-boyfriend
or girlfriend, planning a surprise for a partner or roommate who might
stumble across your iGoogle page or Gmail inbox. (To say nothing of
discussions of illicit or controversial behavior...)  See also: Google Maps
Street View.

As for Buzz, a friend made a pretty good observation: "I don't have a
problem with it, necessarily, but I sure would if I were having an affair."

It is troubling to me that Google will roll something like this out in Beta
before considering its implications for privacy and safety. They have
backpedaled a bit, I believe (you can now opt-out more easily, from what I
hear), but I wonder whether this comes too late for some people. Astute
observers may have been able to gather data on people before everyone knew
what was going on and changes were implemented by Google. Given Google's
prominence and power, I wish they were a bit more cautious in implementing
new programs that affect the online world for millions (billions?) of
people. Maybe Google could have some kind of outside focus group or
ombudsman program to help break through their naivete and consider users'
concerns *before* a product is rolled out.


Justin Reedy
Doctoral student
Department of Communication
University of Washington

From: Aziz Douai <azizdouai at gmail.com>
To: air-l at listserv.aoir.org
Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2010 11:33:32 -0500
Subject: [Air-L] Privacy Buzz
Hi everyone,

I guess I am one of the lurkers on the listserv, but here goes my first
contribution: Buzz. If you have used the new google social network service,
how do you feel about the seeming violation of privacy? A few days ago, I
decline my Gmail's insistence on adding trying the new feature/service. Now,
the New York Times has a great article (Critics Say Google Invades Privacy
with New Service:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/technology/internet/13google.html) on how
users' rights to privacy appear to have been violated. The article raises
the interesting question of how totalitarian regimes may use the service to
suppress political dissent. Google's rhetoric and carefully constructed
image following its row with China is put to test.

Anyway, I am curious as to how AIR members have found the feature with
regard to both privacy and security.



Aziz Douai, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Communication Program
Faculty of Criminology, Justice and Policy Studies
University of Ontario Institute of Technology
2000 Simcoe Street North
Oshawa, ON L1H 7K4
E-mail: aziz.douai at uoit.ca/ <http://aziz%2Edouai@uoit.ca/>
azizdouai at gmail.com


"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring
it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both."  James
Madison, 1822


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