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Google's Privacy "Buzz" Saw -- Privacy vs Publicacy Series Part XIX

Kudos to Nicholas Carlson of Silicon Valley Insider for an outstanding must-read post on Google's new social media additions to gmail it calls Google Buzz: "WARNING: Google Buzz has a huge privacy flaw."

  • In a nutshell, Google Buzz, Google's signature catch-up to Facebook effort, sets its default setting to make your email and chat lists public to everyone, even if you did not want it to be public, because Google does not meaningfully ask for permission on this critical question nor does it highlight the privacy risk of Google Buzz' default public setting. 
  • The reason for this default public setting is that a public setting best serves Google's attempts to catch FaceBook in social media by forcing more interactions and connections than before, not that it best serves its users/consumers. 
    • In a word they make it easiest for Google to benefit and hardest for a user to maintain the privacy they had moments before using Google Buzz.
  • This was a dumb-as-a-brick move for Google when it is desperately trying to convince Congress to kill pending bipartisan privacy legislation as unnecessary and to convince legislators that Google actually values users' privacy and that opt-outs are more than sufficient privacy protection for consumers. Oops!  

Mr. Carlson's laudatory discovery of this monster privacy flaw in Google Buzz is Exhibit I in my year-long case in this research series that Web 2.0 business models, and Google in particular, believe first in "publicacy" (the opposite of privacy) because that is what benefits them not the user, and privacy second, and only because they have to because that is what users actually expect from them, according to the latest major surveys from Consumer Reports and Annenberg.

Google claims it is all about the user, and giving the user control, but concerning privacy, these claims most certainly are false.

Google's publicacy actions and privacy excuses are the functional equivalent of asking no one for permission to let their privacy "horse out of the barn," and then telling them that they are always free to "put the horse back in the barn" whenever they want to

  • If Google really cared about their users, or user control, they would ask their users their permission before taking their proverbial "privacy" horse out of the barn without permission, not after.
  • Google does not do this because they believe your private information should be public not private and that they should be completely free to "innovate without permission."

Simply, Mr. Carlson's outstanding analysis is the best and most obviously damning evidence of Google's "publicacy" business model in practice, since I coined the term "publicacy" in my House Internet Subcommittee testimony on online privacy.

  • In that testimony, I presented the case that Google is akin to "J. Edgar Google," and is the single biggest threat to Americans' privacy.



Publicacy vs Privacy Series:

Part I: The Growing Privacy-Publicacy Fault-line -- The Tension Underneath World Data Privacy Day 

Part II: Implications of User Location Tracking

Part III: Extreme Publicacy -- Does Privacy Stand a Chance?

Part VI: Why FTC’s Behavioral-Ad Principles Are a Big Deal

Part V: Privacy prevailed in Facebook's privacy-publicacy earthquake

Part VI: Do People Own Their Private Information Online?  

Part VII: Where is the line between privacy and publicacy? 

Part VIII: "Privacy is Over"

Part IX: "Interventional Targeting? "Get into people's heads" 

Part X: "Latest publicacy arguments against privacy"

Part XI: "The Web 2.0 movement is opposed to the privacy movement." 

Part XII: "No consumer control over the commercialization of their privacy?"

Part XIII: "Does new Government cookie policy favor publicacy over privacy? "

Part XIV: "Google Book Settlement "absolutely silent on user privacy" 

Part XV: Yet more evidence of Google's hostility to privacy

Part XVI: Poll: Americans strongly oppose publicacy & expect online privacy

Part XVII: FaceBook CEO throws privacy under the bus

Part XIX: Fact Checking Google's privacy principles