alanwilliamson

Dear Google+, you had your chance, you blew it

Anyone that knows me, knows that I am not a fan of social networks. I have never had a Facebook, MySpace, or even a Bebo account. I simply do not trust an organization, a commercial organization whose main aim is to mine my data for profit, to protect my privacy.

However that does not mean I am not social. I have my circle of friends, the people I interact with, people I share things with. But that is in real life. Just because I share with Person X something, does not automatically mean that I wish anyone that comes into contact with me to know this information also.

For last few years, I have been keeping my photos backed up on Google's Picasa. I paid for extra space for my 50GB of photos, charting the rise of all my children. The collection was getting big that I wanted to spread my risk for fear of losing them. One failure could wipe out a lot of memories. Picasa worked great. All my photos were painstakingly marked private and I rarely shared an album. I even spent some time and tagged the people in those photos.

Then came along Google+. I got seduced. I got seduced with all the talk of how Google values your privacy and how they have learned from the failures of their earlier Buzz experiment and how they have listened to the concerns of disgruntled Facebook users.

I got my invite, I signed up, started to post a few items. To be completely honest I wasn't sure what I would use it for. I have a Twitter account, but that is used for mostly sending out links and at least with Twitter, I am under no illusion of any sort of privacy. That is public. Period. Don't put anything on Twitter you wouldn't want ANYONE to read (current clients, friends, family etc). So when I tweet, I actually spend a bit of mental time editing and correcting. Many a potential tweet never made it as far as hitting the "send" button.

Google+ was going along fine. Then it all went wrong. Big time.

I fired up my Picasa desktop software and pushed the previous months worth of photos up there for backup. I then jumped onto the web site to confirm all the albums were there and noticed that I had missed the tagging of someones face. I quickly corrected that.

That little action then prompted me with a message: "Your photo album has now been shared with this person and posted on your Google+ stream". WHAT THE FUCK?! I never authorized that. I never at any point said that sharing of this PERSONAL and PRIVATE data was in actual fact okay. I look to my Picasa sharing settings to see if I had accidentally turned something on. No. There were all fine, except, the privacy settings in there had been reduced in options.

Game over. Now my whole 10 years worth of private, family photos are at risk of accidentally popping up in my Google+ stream. No way. My original fears and concerns of using social networks are realized; you are not in control of your data once you hand it over. No matter what they say or what assurances they give you.

This is being hotly debated on the Google+ forums http://bit.ly/qtOrJT and of course, the long term Picasa users are equally angry at this http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Picasa/thread?tid=52e06725a97fe570&hl=en.

With Google deciding it wants every thing in its eco-system to be part of Google+ this sort of thing is only set to get worse. Imagine, mentioning someone in an email and then they deciding one day, "oh that would be cool if that person also got told of you talking about them". Far fetched? Maybe, but I thought my private paid for photo archive was in actual fact private.

So Google, you fucked up. You fucked up big time.

You have shown yourself to be no more trustworthy with my data than any of the rest of the social networks. The only difference here is that you are worse; you automatically merged my private data into your social network without my permission or without me having a choice in the matter.

While Google+ maybe a free new product, Picasa photos is not. Picsaa is a paid for, stable, well established service. I pay money to use that and be offered a level of service. Just because Google+ is "pre-release" that does not give it carte blanche to do with my data as it pleases, particularly if that data is coming from another service I am paying for. I could possibly excuse the mistake, if the photo was uploaded from within Google+, or posted directly onto the Google+ stream. But it was not.

Beware. Be very aware.

update#1: I have now deleted my Google+ account, removed my Google profile and in the process of deleting my Picasa account. the only one you can trust with your data is YOU.

update#2: It gets worse, this appears to be a feature that Google+ have built-in by design http://picasa.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=1306701. Completely unacceptable.

 


 

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