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February 18, 2010

Google Buzz CrisisImage by Getty Images 

One of the most influential companies in the world is the search-engine and information technology giant, Google. Although users around the world love Google for the many tools it offers to make their lives easier, recently Google has rolled out a number of services which people see as violations of privacy. These technologies include Google Buzz, Google Streetview, Google Mail, and even the core search engine.

When Google Buzz rolled out in February, Google Buzz users had their Gmail contact history revealed on their public Google profile. Every email sent and chat message exchange was available for the public to see. A boss could see an employee emailing competitors, a partner could see their significant other emailing an ex, and any number of other revealing situations.

Since many people did not know how, or did not realize that they need to opt out of this Google Buzz feature, it has led to cries that Google is showing sensitive information without explicit user consent. A related concern is with the mobile version of Google Buzz, which by default reveals the exact location a person was at when they made a post.

In response to a recent outcry over privacy concerns, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was quoted in The Register saying, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This cavalier attitude towards privacy has led some Google users to question whether they can simply forgive Google pushing Google isto an ever growing  reputation management crisis.

Analyzing The Crisis Response

However, Google, for its part, has been quick to respond to their reputation management crisis. The company has integrated features allowing users to turn off updates about their location, and to stop information about their contacts from being shared by default. While many people feel this is too little too late – and indeed, that the fact they made these changes is tantamount to admitting wrongdoing – others believe the company is making a genuine effort to correct an error in judgment.

Whether the public ultimately accepts Google’s attempts at reconciliation remains to be seen, but in similar cases in the past the company has shown themselves to be adept at addressing concerns, explaining their logic, and making amends for any damage that was done.

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