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February 18, 2010

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Jim Gourley

Google's premature rush to rollout Buzz may very well have to do with its ongoing discussion with China over the google.cn affair. Buzz raises the stakes, even though it first appeared as if Google was delivering a New Year's gift to China as mentioned in last week's Morozov article. By linking Buzz with Gmail it has put China in the position of possibly taking another international censorship hit if they end up blocking Gmail, both http and https. This may very well be an interesting strategy poorly executed. Though they have corrected some of the privacy issues, they aren’t off the hook for not externally testing a new product, despite CEO Schmidt’s “nobody was harmed” statement yesterday. One has to wonder what Google’s intentions were for stupidly rushing Buzz into all Gmail accounts. I have written about this extensively on my blog over the past week.

Jon

they might have botched the launch of Buzz because they overlooked a couple of factors, some of the complaints were overblown and some were justified but Buzz has potential, it incorporates open protocols and built upon open standards it can utilize the social web concept in which the whole Internet is your social network and you are not limited to an enclosed specific social environments and from there the potential for overcoming government firewalls and censorship efforts is huge.

they are working hard to mend things i say lets hold further judgment until we see the following iterations on this new service.

jon

Excellent post. Of course if Google continues to treat privacy cavalierly, then it won't do any good to channel our concerns and feedback. However if they decide to treat this fiasco as an opportunity to wake up to their responsibilities as a huge and successful corporation, then we should think about how we as netizens can help. At Microsoft in the early 200s, the FTC consent decree with Hotmail and the Windows Media Player "phone home" fiasco were watershed moments in getting the company to take privacy a lot more seriously. Let's hope a similar thing happens here.

Shameless plug: this is the kind of topic we discuss at the Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference (where Rebecca gave a great keynote last year). It's in San Jose, California, this year, June 15-18 ... and there are still a few days left to submit proposals. Please do!

jon

Anonymous and prefer to remain so

Good write-up. Like many other people, I found this quite troubling.

However, let's not forget that Gmail still has two huge privacy advantages:

1. It does not transmit your IP address to the recipients of your emails, if sent via their webmail interface. So they can't check from which geographic region you sent the mail, or (if you are working at a university or big enough company and are using Gmail to send private mails from your workplace) to identify your employer.

2. It has long offered complete SSL encryption and recently has made it the default (after some prodding in the form of an open letter from security resarchers). The importance of this for people living under an oppressive regime should be well-known.

Can anybody recommend a reasonable alternative to Gmail which offers these two?

(Posted earlier at http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/rmackinnon/google-buzzkill)

Blake

I can access your Google profile and Isaac Mao's profile without any problems in Beijing.

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