I love the openness of Americans. It’s endearing, although it can mean listening to an extraordinary amount of information about someone for a first meeting. This can be uncomfortable when the conversation seems to have no context for such openness. In these encounters, it becomes clear that, unlike Brits, many Americans value sharing over privacy.
Facebook and Google have made it entirely clear that they value sharing over privacy, so much so that they’ve forced users to forfeit privacy in favour of sharing their information and relationships with the entire internet.
Google’s socialisation of Gmail’s media inbox, Buzz, popped up in my left-hand navigation as I was writing an email to friends asking if they had any recommendations for a cleaner in London. Within 24 hours of the launch of Buzz I received my first spam – an ad for a home cleaning company in London. Because Google had decided on an opt-out approach to collecting ’followers’, I posted a message about the highly targeted spam. Then I had a direct email from the cleaning company offering me its services. I now wonder who has access to the content of my messages? Is Buzz the new name of Big Brother?
In the same day, some Picasa photos appeared in my stream. These pictures of my son and I taking a spontaneous dip in a Uruguayan river while wearing white t-shirts aren’t images I’d knowingly share with the public at large. Should I appreciate that Buzz highlighted this Picasa privacy setting error or mortified that other contacts who were forced to follow me might also have been spammed with these pictures?
It’s somehow a relief to know Google can get a product launch so wrong, especially in light of Facebook’s recent privacy fiasco when it initially decided everyone’s profile would automatically default to public access. Google’s attempt to win market share demonstrates the war raging between these two American giants who value sharing above privacy and short-term income over long-term trust.
Despite the difficult start, there is a good side to Buzz. As Gmail continues to grow, with 175m users and rising, it becomes much easier to share photos and links to videos with your friends via email and the public at large with the integration of Buzz. It also allows longer posts than Twitter. Unlike Twitter, however, you can’t initiate a public conversation with someone you follow or one of your Gmail contacts, so I expect the comment feature will span various topics rather than relating to the context of the original post.
On the whole, I’m hopeful about this new way to share content and comment, but Buzz needs to increase the control people have over their privacy, which is too quickly being eroded. Forget about the issues with a national identity card – making your email content and contacts publicly available on the internet forever has far wider implications
This post was shared with us by the great folks at www.nma.co.uk
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