Friday, February 12, 2010
Google compromises Gmail privacy, see if you are affected
by Larry Geller
Do you use Gmail? You probably have some expectation of privacy as you use it. Well, things have changed, and users who are aware of the change may be upset.
Google Buzz is just out. It’s a social network that Google has built for you and they put you in it whether you want to network or not. When you log on to your Gmail account it presents a splash screen that says “New! Google Buzz in Gmail!” and a button on the bottom to check it out. Or, you can go to your inbox. Even if you don’t check it out. it’s on. Even if you check the fine-print link on the bottom of the screen to turn it off, it’s still on. Huh? Yes. Evil.
Depending on how you have set up Gmail, they’ve put some of your information and contacts out for all the world to see—without asking your permission.
Assume for just a moment that this concerns you. Assume, perhaps, that some other people might expect to be able to contact you in confidence — as a lawyer, a blogger, a journalist, or even (gasp) a friend. Assume that part of your professional responsibility is keeping the confidences of others. [The Supreme Court of Texas Blog, Lawyers (or journalists) with Gmail accounts: Careful with the Google Buzz, 2/11/2010]
Trouble is, whether you asked for it or not, it’s turned on. It’s an “opt-out” system. Worse, if you use Gmail from an email client (as I do) and seldom go to the webmail page, you’ll never know your privacy has been compromised.
I suspect this might lead to a few divorces if spouses see contact names that raise their suspicions….
Google, which is not supposed to do any evil, is doing evil.
Google did not ask your permission for this repurposing of your personal email information, it did not ask your permission to share it, and is not asking for your forgiveness now.
And even if Google does give us a nice, big “opt-out” button, this remains a massive violation of user trust on Google’s part. This sharing of personal information never should have been opt-out. This is a huge shift in how Gmail uses our data. If this is Google’s method of dealing with our previously private data in the future, how many of us will really feel good about trusting our documents to Google Docs? Or our photos to Picasa? [The Supreme Court of Texas Blog, Gmail’s “turn off buzz” (still) does not turn off Buzz; here’s how to really do it, 2/12/2010]
The first link is a web page with discussion on why you might be concerned, what’s going on, and how to turn off Google Buzz (it isn’t easy!!). The second link (today’s article) actually has a simpler method. I recommend reading both articles before deciding what to do. Don’t miss the comments.
You can, of course, learn more about the Google Buzz privacy issue—by using a Google search.