Have you heard the buzz? Google Buzz. The botched launch of Google's attempt at social networking has forced the hand of government leaders from Canada, Italy and eight other countries to tell Google to either shape up, or ship out. They are asking the company, in an open letter, to adhere to a list of privacy principles in which they will need to follow before launching any new project. Apparently, we're all tired of Google's "launch now, fix later" campaign.
The letter sent directly to Google CEO Eric Schmidt showed criticism on how Google handled its launch of Buzz in February, stating that the privacy problems "were serious and ought to have been readily apparent to you." Google users were surprised when Google automatically connected everything Google related into each other, including private Gmail contacts and Google Reader items.
Of course, Google responded to that matter days later by doing program-wide default settings change, but by that point users were already aggravated at the system. The letter to Google explains this:
While your company addressed the most privacy-intrusive aspects of Google Buzz in the wake of this public protest ... we remain extremely concerned about how a product with such significant privacy issues was launched in the first place. We would have expected a company of your stature to set a better example.
But it didn't stop at the Buzz. The letter also attacked Google Street View, in which the EU demanded people's faces be removed from the images displayed on the site. The letter goes on to ask Google to adhere to "fundamental privacy principles" when designing new services. Basically, Google has been asked to only collect the minimum amount of personal information required, and explain in detail how the information will be used.
Ironically, a couple of days ago Google published a letter to the Federal Trade Commission on privacy, which mentioned that the Internet giant supports transparency and user control, as well as "comprehensive privacy standards."
It seems like Google is just trying to put a glaze over the failed launch at a new service. Maybe they should buy Facebook. They share similar business models.