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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.

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Last Post by leahmarie
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Hmmmm. Google threatens to out of China because evil chinese hackers were trying to get at email addresses of human rights activists. And here all the techosnoopers would have had to do was wait for Buzz to not only give them that but a list of everyone those human rights activists had corresponded with. Thanks Google!!!

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When I signed up for Buzz, it didn't pull my entire address book. I found it chose people rather randomly-not even the people I necessarily corresponded with most often. Your mileage may have varied on this, I grant you.

For the record, I'm not excusing Google's actions, I'm merely stating that maybe people should be careful about the information they share on the internet, whether it's Google or anyone else.

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If the post office made public a list of our frequent correspondents or if a phone company made public a list of people we call frequently, there would be loud, widespread, and totally justified outrage. The Capitol switchboard would be overflowing with outraged calls. No one would write, "If you have something to hide, maybe you should think twice about using the telephone to conduct your business" or "If you have something to hide, maybe should think twice about mailing letters."

Ron, you seem willing to give Google, and by extension other service providers on the internet, a free pass to do whatever they want without permission or even a warning. You seem to be suggesting that if I am so STUPID as to think an e-mail or an instant message might actually between me and my interlocutor, I am so hopelessly naive that whatever may happen, it's just what I deserve.

NO!

What Google did was an egregious violation of the privacy of all its Gmail users, and they should be held to account for it, most particularly, in my opinion, by those of us who work closely with technology.

With regard to your question, "Would a Journalist Really Talk to Sources on GTalk?" I think you know the answer is yes. You and a ton of other journalists use IM, twitter, Gmail, and wide range of other services. It's 2010, man! You could not be a successful journalist and NOT use the internet.

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I'm not excusing Google, David and I don't believe anything I wrote suggests that I was. I'm stating the cold hard facts about life on the internet. There are people who can access your information at will whenever they want (and do). Information on the internet is up for grabs whether you like it or not and you should be aware of that and deal with it or just unplug.

And for the record, if you are a cheating spouse or a criminal, your letters could be used against you and your phone lines could be tapped. Journalists are of course using the internet, but when dealing with confidential sources, they might want to take minor steps to hide their identity by using a dummy account as I suggested. It's just prudent. Remember, Deep Throat met Woodward and Bernstein in a dark parking garage for a reason because even back in the 70s prying eyes were everywhere. The internet makes it easier to listen in.

While citizens should have a reasonable expectation of privacy in private correspondence whether on the phone, the mail or the internet; the fact is, that it's fairly easy for people to intercept these communications. Google deserves criticism and I clearly state that in my post, but anyone who uses the internet, has to know that companies may expose some of their information either accidentally or on purpose and you have to be prepared for that.

If you took a poll and asked how many people really trust Google (or Microsoft, Yahoo!, AOL or anyone else) with their information, how many do you think would reply they do? I'm guessing not many. So why the outrage now about Google Buzz? Most people use Google tools because they are convenient and reasonably good, but few of us think our information is private or safe on Google's servers. To do so would be hopelessly naive. I'm not defending the system, just stating the obvious. Be careful with your information on the internet.

Ron

Edited by Techwriter10: n/a

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I still think you're letting Google off way too easy. Someone who signed up for Gmail a few years ago and carefully read the privacy policy learned that Google would "not sell, rent or otherwise share your personal information with any third parties" except as required by law. I don't think that person failed to exercise common sense or reasonable caution by failing to realize that Google would intentionally violate its own clearly stated privacy policy a few years down the road with the Buzz service.

You already know I don't trust the cloud at all, and you are certainly correct that any information sent over the internet may be exposed accidentally or on purpose. I think you're wrong to say it's "fairly easy" to intercept private e-mail - it's fairly easy for a very small number of people, but completely out of reach for the vast majority. And I think it is mistaken to assign *any* responsibility for the Buzz privacy breach to Gmail users. The blame in this instance goes 100% to Google.

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Ah, you think I'm blaming Buzz users for Google's errors. If that's the way it reads, I apologize. That was not my intention.

The fact is you search for anyone on Facebook and a lot of information about you and your friends is exposed by default now. You search for someone on Twitter and you can see their Tweets, their followers and who they follow. If you go on LinkedIn, you can see a person's work history and very often the people they link to. Google screwed up in this instance, but they were trying to make the system work like other social networks tend to work.

Google should have been more careful about how they implemented this. They messed up by their own admission. I'm not suggesting otherwise. I'm saying that information on the internet is very vulnerable and people should definitely be aware of this.

Ron

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If someone thinks they have any sense of privacy today, they are just fooling themselves. There is absolutely no sense of privacy. Most importantly, nowadays, people are very willing to give up their privacy by tweeting, updating FB, etc.

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In any case, your email contacts should never be made public. Sure, they can be easily detected but should never be made openly accessible publicly.

And, finding workarounds to protect your privacy (ie using fictitious names to set up email accounts) only encourages the problem to perpetuate, unquestioned; and that problem is: capitalism gone Google bezerk, again.

Edited by canadafred: n/a

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How is this related to capitalism?
Do Google makes more money if you have two accounts instead of one?
I thought it would be more overhead on their servers (costing them more) without you using the service more overall (not gaining them more). Shouldn't that be a net loss for them?

Also, if it's of vital importance that noone knows you're communicating with someone, doesn't it make sense to use a pseudonym when doing so? Hasn't it since before electricity was even discovered?

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Aww where's the edit button? :(
That should have been "make", not "makes".

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Do Google makes more money if you have two accounts instead of one?
I thought it would be more overhead on their servers (costing them more) without you using the service more overall (not gaining them more).
THIS IS REALLY NICE sentence.....
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john
{snip}

Edited by jay 11: removed fake sig

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I think Google wasn't trying to invade or cause some frustrations or anger due to revelations done by google.com

Edited by leahmarie: n/a

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