Thanks to Canada’s privacy commissioner, we finally get a chance to write about the catastrophe that is Google Buzz
The Globe is reporting that Jennifer Stodart, Canada’s privacy commissioner, added her name to a strongly worded letter to Google that reprimands the tech behemoth for its lackadaisical attitude toward the privacy of its users. Stodart’s name is just one of many privacy representatives from 10 different countries who signed the note, which takes particular umbrage with Google Buzz, the lame social media tool that turned up in Gmail in February. The letter is interesting not because the service is relevant—does anyone actually use it?—but because of the uproar it caused upon rollout.
Says the letter, in the tone of an angry principal:
You took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based e-mail service, and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed. Google automatically assigned users a network of “followers” from among people with whom they corresponded most often on Gmail, without adequately informing Gmail users about how this new service would work or providing sufficient information to permit informed consent decisions. This violated the fundamental principle that individuals should be able to control the use of their personal information… It is unacceptable to roll out a product that unilaterally renders personal information public, with the intention of repairing problems later as they arise. Privacy cannot be sidelined.
While the letter rips into Google in satisfyingly irate tones, it stops short of addressing other common complaints with the social networking product. We like to imagine that there is a crumpled draft in a bin somewhere with a passage that reads “Also, Google Buzz, you suck. We wouldn’t have minded the privacy breach, but how do you follow these conversations, anyway? Why is the damn thing so difficult to turn off? And why is the logo so ugly? And since when is ‘unfollow’ a word? It’s no ‘unfriend.’”