Someone sued Google the other day for violating her privacy with the original implementation of Google Buzz. You see, when you first opened Google Buzz last week, Google looked at the people you most frequently email or chat with and used that list of people to seed your followers list. They made this list public too, which is apparently what got privacy advocates in an uproar.
Since then, Google has fixed the problem, but that hasn't stopped lawyers for a woman named Eva Hibnick from filing a law suit. Critics have said that the privacy hole could have hurt people who were trying to hide certain information from public view. Here's a bit of advice:
If you're trying to hide information from public view, DON'T USE GMAIL!
Would a Journalist Really Talk to Sources on GTalk?
Apparently some journalists were upset because this "public" list outed some of their "confidential" sources. If you're a journalist, maybe you should have had the good sense to follow my rule above, but if you insist on using Google to talk to your sources, maybe you should set up a dummy account to talk to them. Google accounts are free and simple enough to set up.
Same goes for cheating spouses. If you're going to use a public channel like GMail to communicate with your lover, set up an account under an assumed name.
Is Google Blameless?
Google clearly could have given this more thought and implemented Buzz more elegantly than it did. They basically assumed everyone would hear about it, implemented it without telling users and didn't give them a choice about how to keep their information private if they chose to use Buzz.
Google admitted on the BBC last Friday that they should have tested it more thoroughly than they did. Gee, you think? This is a company that kept GMail in beta for years before removing the label, yet force-feeds a tool like Google Buzz onto users without a Beta period or any warning for that matter?
Is Google Responsible?
Is Google ultimately responsible? They probably are, especially when they even admit they released the tool too soon, but individuals have to have some sense of personal responsibility (and common sense) too. If you have something to hide, maybe you should think twice about using the internet to conduct your business. If you are going to use Web 2.0 tools to communicate with people you would prefer the rest of the world didn't know about, you have to recognize that much of this information is probably publicly available, or at the very least, is always in danger of being exposed.
So if you're a journalist or law enforcement, a cheating spouse or a scammer, use Google tools at your own risk. Guess what? There is no privacy on the internet, period, and Eva Hibnick and other complainers would be wise to recognize this from the get-go.