Internet Privacy, It's a PUBLIC Internet Folks

Earlier this week, Google announced a new product called Google Buzz.  Google Buzz is one part Twitter, one part FriendFeed, and one part Wave.  Even more to the point, Buzz is Google’s entrance into the social media space.  This product launch isn’t without it’s uproar.  Like the uproars caused by a Facebook redesign/feature launch, Google Buzz as come under fire for privacy concerns.

Now, I’m the first to advocate privacy.  I think that you should never enter into something without understanding its impacts on your and information.  That being said, I’m also an avid user of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Gowalla, and so on.  But I understand the implications on my privacy and look at how it’s handled once I’ve opened an account.  Google Buzz was no different.  They announced that you would automatically follow those you contact most via Gmail, it says so on the Google Buzz page.  So right off the bat, you know what’s going to happen.

That hasn’t stopped some people from having issues though.  Take this example here from the Fugitivus blog (warning: explicit language contained in post).  The person here was using Google Reader, a RSS subscription reader application from Google.  This is the part I want to focus mostly on for my point.

That point is, if you’re using an internet service, do not do something you wouldn’t want potentially shared with the world.  I think we can all agree, the internet is a mostly public forum.  Yes, there are walled services (like Facebook), but things happen, passwords get hacked, and companies make mistakes and privacy is destroyed (even if it’s only temporary).  Yes, one’s Google Reader sharing/notes/whatever should only go to those it’s intended.  But at the same time, caution must be maintained when doing something.  You wouldn’t send a questionable email out, because you never know where it might end up.  So why would you do something on a web application that you didn’t want seen by the public at large?  If you are going to use the internet, you have to accept some breakdown in privacy.  There is no such thing as a “PRIVATE INTERNET”.  My approach to internet privacy is this: “Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want seen by the public at large” – that’s it, no more or less.  If I don’t want the public knowing about it or fear that it might eventually see the light of day, well then I just simply don’t do it.

Now, before someone blankets me with a ton of statements about the blog post I linked to, let me note that I believe that the person has every right to be angry with Google, and I agree that Google Buzz needs to address many of its privacy concerns.  There are some issues that definitely need to be ironed out and I think Google will get it all sorted out.  In fact, Google has already announced some changes to Buzz’s privacy controls (it’s not a lot, but it’s a start).  Google released Buzz early and it is still very much a new product, but Google is good about the “release early, release often” (or at least they have been lately) so I think most of the major privacy issues will be resolved.

But let me just reiterate, it’s a public internet.  Even the walled sites eventually have cracks that let data out.  It’s going to happen.  So if your interested in keeping something under wraps, the internet is not the place to discuss it.

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