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How Google+ Measures Up On Privacy 164

Posted by timothy
from the circling-the-wagons dept.
itwbennett writes "The slow rollout of Google+ has led some to wonder whether Google was trying to create demand through scarcity, but it might just be that the company learned its lesson from the privacy fiasco that was the launch of Google Buzz. 'I think it is very smart of Google to restrict Plus to a "limited field trial" — they aren't even calling it a beta. Google made a misstep with the roll out of Buzz. They've already avoided that mistake with Plus with this limited release. And because it's so exclusive, tech savvy individuals are fighting to get in — just the type of folks that you want as beta testers,' said Sean Sullivan, an F-Secure security adviser. Of course, fixing bugs doesn't necessarily mean that Google will have privacy issues buttoned up. 'Google Plus is clearly designed to give people better control over their privacy with respect to their family, co-workers and friends, [but] there are other types of privacy that it simply can't provide,' says Peter Eckersley, a senior staff technologist for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. 'Nobody has succeeded in building a social network that can offer those kinds of privacy protections yet.'"
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How Google+ Measures Up On Privacy

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday July 11, 2011 @08:26AM (#36718928) Journal
    I've been largely assembling circles these past couple days and was undecided about uploading an actual picture of me because there's no way to suppress that from being visible to people outside my circles. Sure, Google's put out an informative privacy center [google.com] but I'm pretty sure in Facebook there is a way to hide nearly everything from people searching for you on the site.

    Google seems to be offering me a different strategy. I found the option to make my profile unsearchable but if someone got a hold of the crazy URL for my profile, they can see my name and picture without being in my profile. I'd rather be searchable and when unknown people find my profile they don't get much (maybe my name and nothing else) until they add me to their circle and I subsequently add them to mine. I think this is the desired functionality of nearly all my friends and that's how we use Facebook.

    I haven't said anything about this as when I first joined, I could not even control the access to my picasa albums as they were automatically imported. This was particularly worrisome as I had some photos of my family around Christmas so I just deleted the albums. A few days later I saw the privacy controls though so I'm guessing the above should be added. Google+ is really undergoing a lot of changes still.

    One complaint I had that isn't privacy related is how taxing the UI is. I just deleted a circle this morning and the action failed twice and then worked the third time. When it worked, there was a row of circles on my screen and the circle I deleted was pushed forward and rolled to the left in front of all the other circles off my screen and then the circles closed their ranks. Cute and pretty ... but not when you're on a low performance computer. Granted, it was probably a lot lighter than Flash, I'm not interested in a social network that's going to include elaborate animations for very simple actions. At least give me a way to disable that.
  • Re:How would I know? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Needlzor (1197267) on Monday July 11, 2011 @08:35AM (#36718984) Homepage
    Not exactly. Nobody can see who other people have put in their circles and that is the whole point of it: only you see how you have compartmentalized your contacts. In addition to that, if you don't have a Google+ profile (doesn't matter if you have a Google normal profile or any other email address), you can still be added to a Circle and when someone who has added your address in a Circle shares something into that particular Circle, you will only receive an e-mail with the message/video/thing shared and a link to join Google+. Nothing more than that.
  • by Fnkmaster (89084) on Monday July 11, 2011 @08:59AM (#36719140)

    Yes, and Google+ has the same feature. :) You can view your public profile, your profile as visible to a given other Google+ member, or your profile as visible to a member of a particular circle of yours. It's pretty trivial to figure out if you are accidentally oversharing in your public profile.

  • by Xest (935314) on Monday July 11, 2011 @09:02AM (#36719168)

    I don't think it's so much privacy per-se that people want out of this systems, it's merely the ability to know and control what vectors there are to access you information.

    Google+ attempts to achieve this by making it explicit who you're sharing what with but Facebook never has, worse Facebook masks certain vectors, for example most people don't realise that just because their profile is private to everyone but their friends, this doesn't mean that their friends can't grant permission for apps to see their friends profiles bypassing any settings about "friends only" that their friends may have set- if you don't set all the options right "friends only" actually means "friends, and any app my friends use", which is quite different to friends only- it's a stealthy vector for your data to leak out to people you never wanted to be able to access it which can catch you unawares. Worse, Facebook when introducing this feature originally actually enabled it without telling anyone so that it applied retroactively- you may have thought you'd set things to friends only, but Facebook can change that when and how they want, even though doing so is a clear breach of at least the UK's data protection act, if not many other similar acts in other countries. Yet still they get away with it.

    Most people realise to use these things you have to lose some privacy, but just as I only give my e-mail address to select people to minimise that chance its gets into the hands of spammers, I'd like to be certain that my personal information is only going to who I've said it's going to- sure it may leak out if my friends get a virus, but at least I've minimised the vectors, and can narrow down where and how it happened just as I can tell that it was some forum that gave my e-mail away to spammers if I used a special forums account for all forum activity separate from my main e-mail account.

    Again, this is where Facebook fails- they let your data leak out left, right, and centre, and you have no idea to whom, where, or how- the only option is to not use it- Google+ is trying to do better than that, it can't guarantee perfect privacy, but at least it helps you understand and manage the vectors for data leakage better. and that's a good enough compromise between not using social networking at all, and your data goes everywhere to anyone who asks type wild-west of Facebook for many people.

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