Google Buzz: Controversy and Privacy Concerns

Google Buzz (our overview) the new social networking platform introduced by Google for all Gmail users (excluding Google Apps) has been out in the wild for nearly half a month (14 days). Since the launch of Google Buzz, it has met much criticism resulting in a very shaky beginning.  Facing an enormous amount of controversy over the privacy of end users amongst other various issues including user interface and lack of features leads us to the question: has Google made a product that can succeed in an already rapidly growing (if not almost somewhat saturated) market or will it fade into an abyss like many other services have over the years?

When Google Buzz first hit mainstream use it was enabled by default for each Gmail user rather than presenting an option of whether to use it or not. Once enabled, it would auto follow people within the contact list of a Gmail user. This choice by Google to “force” users to be introduced to Google Buzz was the first notch in the belt of controversy that was soon to follow in the first several days of existence.

In fact, the privacy of users that use Google Buzz has became such a hot topic that on February 16, 2010 Harvard Law School filed a class action lawsuit against Google alleging that Google violated many federal laws that protect user privacy. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has also filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission stating that Google Buzz “violated user expectations, diminished user privacy, contradicted Google’s privacy policy, and may have violated federal wiretap laws.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, have also commented on the privacy of Google Buzz.

Google has since made changes to Google Buzz to address the privacy concerns of individuals and organizations, but it seems much of the problems brought up about Google Buzz could have easily been fixed if proper testing was conducted. The standard process for introducing new features to Google products is for Google to make them an optional feature on the Google Labs website. Google Buzz was never tested by the public until its unveiling so much of the criticism can be attributed to this move.

Google Buzz is still fairly young. It is too early to determine if Google Buzz will be a product that can be the next big social network, but what is certain is that with the large amount of controversy surrounding it (and the fact it is built into Gmail), it will stay and remain in the spotlight for the time being.

What do you think about Google Buzz?  Do you feel it’s invasive or a privacy concern?  Let us know!

About the author

— Jeff Weisbein

Jeff is the founder & CEO of BestTechie. He has over 10 years of experience working with technology and building businesses. He loves to travel and listen to music.

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