A Great Example of the Danger Of Web Apps You Don’t Host Yourself

Slashdot reports the Google Reader privacy fiasco, including a post about how the publishing of previously-private information meant that Google has ruined Christmas for one family:

This is going to sound like hyperbole, but this new feature has actually RUINED CHRISTMAS for my family! I sent a share a few days ago that I thought would only go to a few politically-like-minded friends. I didn’t realize that because I had chatted with him in GChat, it would also go to my brother, who is of a different political persuasion. When he received it, he sent a snide, angry email about it to a large group of our family members. I sent him an email (I’ll admit, not the nicest one I’ve ever sent) asking him not to talk about me behind my back and recommending that he stop reading my feed if the posts were going to make him so angry. He called me a nasty name and told me that if I can’t take a little ribbing, maybe we shouldn’t talk anymore at all, including at Christmas Eve dinner. My whole family has taken sides over this divisive political issue, and several of them are not speaking. I kid you not, this is threatening to break up my family at Christmas. Google, you can set up whatever features you want and make whatever rules you want to. But you have to give us fair warning so that we can make decisions about how to use your products. You can’t change the rules without telling anyone. People have integrated your products into their everyday lives, so the changes you make have real effects on our lives, including our relationships with the people we contact. You have to keep that in mind when you make these sorts of major decisions Please, please give me the option to choose who to share with and who not to share with. And tell us in advance before you make changes of this magnitude so that people can alter their behavior before the changes occur.

Seems like Eben Moglen’s speech on privacy at the MySQL conference is worth a listen again :-)


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