The Downside to the Buzz: Google's Failed Attempt at Popularity

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

In 2009, Myspace was found to be home to thousands of sex offenders as well as aspiring musical bands. [No worries, they’ve since moved to Facebook.]

In 2010, Facebook’s numerous privacy violations became the subject of a book, which in turn became the subject of a movie. All are successful.

In September, Tyler Clementi commits suicide after a telling tweet from his roommate and Perez Hilton vows to be nicer.

Foursquare, and other location-sharing applications, let you become your own GPS and is a privacy suit just waiting to happen.

Digital native or not, we’re all familiar with the fallout of when popular social networks become too social.

The latest notch in the proverbial stick is Google Buzz, an experiment by the tech giant that was launched earlier this year with mixed results. Though it has in no way reached the status of any of the aforementioned, it’s interesting to note that Buzz is not without its problems. As one of Gmail’s 170 million + users, I received the following email earlier this week:

My experiences with Google Buzz were uninspiring and short-lived. I basically clicked on it during its debut in February, only to find a mismatched collection of some of my Gmail contacts that included everyone from good friends, acquaintances, professors, and random people from some random mass emails I’ve received/or sent over the years.

It was weird. It lacked the interactivity of Facebook and even the shallowness of Twitter. And that was about it.

And by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one to feel this way. Google’s current lawsuit stems from angry users who suddenly found their contact lists made available due to Buzz. You can view the terms of the settlement here:

Of course, tech-media watchdogs like TechCrunch were all over the suit like white on bread, pointing out that Gmail will not be forking over a penny to any of its disgruntled users. Instead, the $8.5 million fund will go towards “organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education, as well as to cover lawyers’ fees and costs and other expenses.”

In a time when companies are thirsting after web interactivity and web 3.0+, privacy issues are ablaze. And when you figure in the economic and editorial impact such services play in today’s journalism industry, it’s no small matter.

Leave it to Google to reap the cost without the benefits. On the social front, anyways.

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