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Google Social Networks Bug Technology

Google Wrestles With Privacy Bugs In Google+ 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-few-cracks-in-the-cement dept.
CWmike writes "Google's new social networking site, Google+ — built to beat Facebook primarily on privacy features — has several privacy bugs the company is working to fix. While some enthusiastic beta testers clamor for Google to open the social networking site to everybody now, it's clear Google needs to address these issues before launching Google+ more broadly. Stumbling right out of the gate over privacy problems would likely doom Google+'s chances of emerging as a viable, realistic rival to Facebook, which rules the social networking market with about 700 million account holders. So far, beta testers have been mostly positive about Google+, particularly over its design to make it easier for users to share posts and content with different sets of people, as opposed with their entire list of contacts. Many of the existing privacy bugs in Google+ revolve around the site's mechanism to block users, according to this published list."
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Google Wrestles With Privacy Bugs In Google+

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  • by Daetrin (576516) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @04:49PM (#36675382)
    I'm still not happy with their attempt to force us to use our real identities for social networking (though to be fair, it's not that that's any different from what Facebook tries to do) but i am definitely happy that they're going with a by invite beta test this time rather than rolling it all out to _everyone_ at once, privacy "bugs" and all, like they did with Buzz.
    • by RJFerret (1279530)

      I have never used my "real" identity with Google, I do not know where you are getting the idea that you must?

      Unlike Facebook, which actively would delete accounts made representing your virtual identities and insist on verifying real information.

      The later was useless to me, as my entire presence for decades is based on me, not my real name (which happens to co-exist with a celebrity, making it useless).

      With Google thankfully, there is no name requirement, no verification, no cross referencing, just me, and

      • by Daetrin (576516)

        I have never used my "real" identity with Google, I do not know where you are getting the idea that you must?

        Perhaps "force" is too strong a word, but it's certainly an attempt to encourage you to do so with some steps taken to enforce the encouragement.

        The gripe i have in particular is that everything seems to be pretty publicly linked with your Google email account. In order to to use Buzz and now presumably Google+ you have to create a Google Profile and provide a "real" name. There's nothing stopping you from providing a fake name in the profile of course, but it's going to be publicly linked with your emai

        • by yuhong (1378501)

          Personally I'd encourage people to use their real identities too whatever possible (I do). Yes, I know it is not always possible in the real world. Many of the problems can be fixed, but of course many of the fixes. will take time.

      • by rsborg (111459)

        The later was useless to me, as my entire presence for decades is based on me, not my real name (which happens to co-exist with a celebrity, making it useless).

        Is that celebrity some no-talent ass clown [imdb.com]?

      • by PhxBlue (562201)

        The later was useless to me, as my entire presence for decades is based on me, not my real name (which happens to co-exist with a celebrity, making it useless).

        Let me guess: Michael Bolton?

    • Create new Google Account. Join Google+, fill with profile with random data.

      As soon as you add friends to your circles, or your friends add you to their circles, then they will be able to determine enough about you by inference.

      • by Daetrin (576516)
        First of all that's kind of a pain, and second of all since many of your friends probably went along with Google's encouragement and used their real names it's possible that other people who aren't your friends could make the same inference as well, which could be a problem if privacy is of concern for you.

        I'm not saying it's impossible to be at least somewhat private using Google+ and I'm not saying that people shouldn't be able to be public and share that kind of info if they want, but the fact that Goo
        • If you have an issue with your real identity being too easy for people to "infer" when you're using a fake name on a social network... I'm thinking social networks aren't for you. What, are you Batman?

  • by gcnaddict (841664) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @04:50PM (#36675392)

    as opposed with their entire list of contacts

    Is this seriously a positive point? I've been able to select and block specific groups on my status messages, images, albums, etc. on Facebook for at least the last two years.

    Come to think about it, Circles in Google+ are simply Facebook Lists and Groups merged together in disguise. I get better permission granularity, get all the group chat features I want in Groups... am I simply not seeing the allure Google+ supposedly offers? I'm all for tossing Facebook, but in all honesty, another centralized platform (especially one owned by an advertisement near-deity) just seems like a terrible idea.

    I wouldn't mind an update on Diaspora right about now.

    • by 21mhz (443080) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:05PM (#36675594) Journal

      Come to think about it, Circles in Google+ are simply Facebook Lists and Groups merged together in disguise. I get better permission granularity, get all the group chat features I want in Groups... am I simply not seeing the allure Google+ supposedly offers?

      A web UI that's convenient and easy to use. Facebook's privacy settings for posting are buried too deep to be handy. Facebook lists are also a lot more tedious to set up; in Google+ you can assign people to circles easily from many places, including the notification that they have added you.

    • I'd love a Diaspora update, too, but in the last three months I've seen precisely zero activity there. Could just be my friends... but there is an uneasy balance between attracting/retaining enough people to get networking effects, and still ensuring their privacy. One thing I like about Google+ is it starts out with limited posting and limited circles and you have to work to reduce your privacy. It appears to me that Facebook has worked in exactly the opposite manner: you have to work to block and filte

      • by Zugok (17194)

        I'd love a Diaspora update, too, but in the last three months I've seen precisely zero activity there.

        Diapsora development is active with daily commits https://github.com/diaspora/diaspora/commits/master [github.com].

      • by AmElder (1385909)

        I'd love a Diaspora update, too.

        IANAWD, but a few weeks ago I heard Raphael Sofaer and Dan Grippi do a presentation on Diaspora. They said they're hoping for a release version by the end of the year. One reason they said they're keeping a low profile is that they don't want to worry about scaling problems at the moment. There are other problems too, such as that its a bit of a pain to set up a pod, right now. They seem like cool, smart guys. They've got bigger goals than just duplicating facebook's functionality, but I didn't take go

    • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:12PM (#36675662)

      I've been able to select and block specific groups on my status messages, images, albums, etc. on Facebook for at least the last two years.

      As have I, however it is difficult and leaves you open to holes.

      Specifically with Facebook, everyone is part of the "Friends" list, and you can't remove people from it without unfriending them, at which point they can see nothing. Some set of people you may not want to see all of your posts, so you can create a list and put people in these blocked lists. However, these changes are not retroactive. So if you create a group later on, you can't deny visibility of older posts to people in that group, and then you get into a complex mess of exceptions and multiple lists with different rules.

      Now with Google+ these visibility settings are not retroactive either, however until you place someone in a group that a post is visible to they cannot see any posts. They are in a limbo-like "unclassified" state, only able to see public posts. As you place them into groups, their post visibility increases. Then if you want to really get complex you can create different circles, which are much easier to target with posts than general posts with lots of visibility rules that have to be applied.

      After all, some people are more acquaintances or professional contacts whereas some people are friends and yet others are family. So you can much more tightly control what people can see, and who can see it. An easy way to think of it, at least for a Slashdotter, is the difference between a firewall that defaults to ALLOW and specifies what to DENY, versus a firewall that defaults to DENY and specifies what to ALLOW. One of these ways is more secure than the other. Google+, at first glance, seems to default to the more secure way.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        you can do this with facebook too, however it is clunky and inefficient
      • So if you create a group later on, you can't deny visibility of older posts to people in that group, and then you get into a complex mess of exceptions and multiple lists with different rules.

        What I don't understand is why you'd want to hide older posts from newer members. Mailing lists (at least all the couple hundred I've been a member of over the years) work in exactly that way (join or be invited or added to the list and you get full access) and has never caused any problems.

        Now with Google+ th

        • Google plus is about you. Mailing lists are usually about something other then you. If you're happy to let a new friend see all of your old exploits then hey, more power to you. Some people don't. I think the boss or new girlfriend examples are good because people change and mature so she doesn't need to see what you did years ago before you moved on from being an emo teen or drunk college student to having some confidence and common sense. If you can't see this causing issues unlike a mailing list of peopl
      • One question regarding google+, let's say I make a group, and we post in it, then I remove "bob" from the group, write "jesus, bob's a retard isn't he?" then add him back in, will he:
        a) see the message because you're allowing everyone within a group to see all messages retroactively, or
        b) he won't see the message because he wasn't allowed at the time of writing to see it.

        Which is it?

    • by Urza9814 (883915)

      I was under the impression that circles are specific to you, where Facebook's groups are not. In other words, if I have a circle called 'friends', and Joe has a circle called 'friends', Joe can be in my 'friends' circle without me being in his. Plus, groups take some effort to set up and such. I suppose that's what lists are for, but you don't get group chat and such with those. But Facebook groups always struck me as something designed for actual organizations. You'd make a group for your school club, not

    • That's why;

      a) A lot of facebook users are not aware of the feature
      b) Few users actually interact with them

      The Friend Lists feature is badly designed from a usability standpoint. It is also pretty well hidden by facebook, and I don't mean that lists are hard to create (they're a pain compared to circle) but just the gymnastics users have to go through to use them with the padlock icon make this feature unusable to most.

      It's also inconsistent on Facebook mobile. On their mobile webapp, it's not available, but

    • by ianare (1132971)

      The way circles are implemented is a killer feature for me. I interact with people in 3 languages, and some of them also speak several languages.

      Putting them in different, non exclusive, circles allows me to filter what I post to people, for example so as not to spam English speakers with Spanish posts, but allowing those that speak English and Spanish to see posts in both languages.

      At the same time I want to have people in different groups according to their relationship to me, so as not to talk about such

    • by jadrian (1150317)

      If you want to share things with just your close family members, or just close friends, or just computer scientists... how do you do it? You create the respective lists. Initial problems.
      - They will see the names of the groups and how you organized them (not good for "not so close friends", "hot girls" and the like).
      - How do you find which pictures you've share with just a particular group of people?

      But you also want to talk back and forth with them, wall style. You can restrict your wall to just certain li

    • by ydrol (626558)

      One thing I want is more control over who see's which photos I'm tagged in. (not my own photos).
      I want to set visibility based on either the tagger or the owner of the photograph.

      At the moment you set inclusion and exclude groups but it applies to ALL photos you are tagged in.

      For example , I may go out with a rowdy bunch, and dont mind them seeing my less flattering moments, but I also want family to see more sedate photos I'm tagged in.

      Facebook has taken all the fun out of getting irresponsibly drunk.

  • The problem with facebook, is that its a single site controlled by a single entity...
    Google+ would just be transferring that control to Google instead of facebook...
    What we need, is something open and decentralised.

    • What we need, is something open and decentralised.

      Oh you mean that Dia...whatsitname that no one gives a shit about anymore?

      • Open, decentralized, and not designed by dorks.
        • by mcvos (645701)

          Google Wave was open, decentralized and worked quite well. Didn't take off, though.

      • I give less a shit about google's 'products' since we know they are not trustable.

        really, given how horrible FB has turned out to be, why do we insist on trying to make a 'better' one? it can't work. any company involved will 'monetize' it and ruin it. therefore, any corp owned discussion forum (call it what you will) is crap by definition.

        not giving google a chance here. why? anyone really think it will be 'so much different' from what we have today from other vendors and wannabees?

        if you have a list

        • I give less a shit about google's 'products' since we know they are not trustable.

          See, there's the difference between you and me - I think Google are trustable. They had a few cockups with Buzz and Streetview but were very frank about them and dealt with them swiftly. To me, these were genuine errors.

          On the other hand, I don't trust Facebook. My major gripe is that they allow the owners of "applications" (quizzes and other time wasters) to access a lot of my data that I thought I had shared with my friends only. This was not obvious at all to me when I installed some applications an

        • by mcvos (645701)

          There are a few advantages to Google over Facebook in this regard: Google has proven to be reasonably competent about their popular services, and Google is not desperate for cash. Of course they'll monetize it, but they're doing that already anyway. They know how to monetize stuff without ruining it, unlike Facebook.

    • You mean, like, the Internet?
    • Yeah, but Mark Zuckerberg's a dick. Google is just greedy and monolithic. I'd much rather my digital soul be sold by Google to earn them profit than to have my digital soul continue to put profits in the pocket of someone of such douchebag status as Zuckerberg.

      Besides, it's not like you have to use Google+, Facebook, or either. Competition just creates choice. It doesn't force change.
    • If only there was a tool where we could all host (or serve) our own Pages.. We could link them together, almost like a web of pages. Of course, it would have to have standards, follow established protocols, and have a tool to "browse" the pages.

      hmmmm

      • by Noughmad (1044096)

        If only there was a tool where we could all host (or serve) our own Pages.. We could link them together, almost like a web of pages. Of course, it would have to have standards, follow established protocols, and have a tool to "browse" the pages.

        hmmmm

        From http://geocities.yahoo.com/index.php [yahoo.com]

        The GeoCities service is no longer available, but there's a lot more to explore on Yahoo!

  • Bug #1 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 0123456 (636235) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @04:56PM (#36675472)

    Surely giving all you personal information to Google is a privacy bug?

    • I wish I had mod points. I totally agree that Google is not going to respect my privacy.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Based on..what?
        Historically, they have. Also, if you choose to leave you can export your info, and they delete you from there system, completely.

        Of course if you share private information in a system people look at, then yeah, you loose privacy, but that's your OWN damn fault.

      • I wish I had mod points. I totally agree that Google is not going to respect my privacy.

        Why not? They've been pretty good about that thus far. When was the last time google shared your information with a third party?

        Hell, their business model depends on keeping information about people to themselves. They don't want the advertisers to know who might be interested in their product. If they had a list, they'd advertise straight to us, and skip google as the middle-men. They want to tell the advertisers, "we know of people's habits and know people who might interested in buying from you. Pa

        • by dzfoo (772245)

          If you discount the governments of the world, you are right: Google never shares your data with anybody. They prefer to sell it, since it's their primary business model.

        • Why not? They've been pretty good about that thus far. When was the last time google shared your information with a third party?

          we can't know!

          you and I don't have a sniffer on their backbone trunks. we can't know what they do once we hit enter.

          no idea at all. why on earth would you assume benevolence on a mega-corp? you new here?

      • I wish I had mod points. I totally agree that $COMPANY is not going to respect my privacy.

        insanity: repeating the same thing and expecting different results.

  • From TFA:

    On other news related to Google+, Google recently announced that as of July 31, it will no longer host private Google Profiles.

    Well that didn't take long. They've gone from the anti-Facebook to being exactly like Facebook in the space of about a week. Paint me not surprised.

    • by 21mhz (443080)

      Looks like you didn't have a chance to try Google+. For nearly every bit of your profile information there, you can specify how widely it can be shared. I guess they want to migrate the now redundant functionality to their new shiny service.

      • by vlm (69642)

        Looks like you didn't have a chance to try Google+. For nearly every bit of your profile information there, you can specify how widely it can be shared. I guess they want to migrate the now redundant functionality to their new shiny service.

        I also see an implication that anyone with a private google profile will be issued a G+ invite before 7/31? Or maybe G+ will be wide open to the entire public before 7/31?

      • by wjousts (1529427)
        Except your real name and gender. Which is public, whether you like it or not after July 31.
        • by 21mhz (443080)

          I'll grant you that. I guess I never had a need to present myself as a masked nobody and call it a profile. The main reason of using social networking services for me are my real-life contacts.

          • by wjousts (1529427)
            But previously you could have a profile only visible to your real-life contacts. Not everybody wants to be out there and be searchable.
        • I have 2 commonly used email accounts. One of them has my name abbreviated in the email address, and has my full name and gender listed. The other takes my handle for the address, and has random data for everything else. They won't be making anything public that wasn't already.

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        Doesn't that imply everybody who currently has a Google Profile will be moved to Google+ by the end of the month? That's... pretty quick moving, if true.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone read TFA or the original page that it refers to as 'list of known privacy bugs'? There isn't a single privacy bug mentioned there.

    • Yeah, I went through the list and noticed one or two things that were minor privacy bugs. But whoever let facts get in front of a sensational headline?
  • Google Circles could be the one thing which actually really works in the good way and bad way much beyond what facebook could ever do. Its scary. Combine it with your places profile, circle of friends and google searches..... Dont forget who makes android. Ich all applications on the mobile phones have integration with circles then facebook and some other may have trouble.

  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:18PM (#36675708)
    For Google+ to become a viable competitor to Facebook, they have to allow what Facebook prevents, starting with adult conversations and adult material. If not, then why jump off the USS Facebook at all since you're going to have to convince your friends to follow you anyway.
  • Not Big Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

    by psydeshow (154300) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @05:19PM (#36675718) Homepage

    Reading through the list of known issues, and none of them are really show-stoppers, just bad housekeeping. Stuff like, when you block someone, their existing posts stick around. That's actually expected behavior in some systems. I might block you for being crazy today, but still want to go back and read what you posted three years ago when you were sane.

    Of course the biggest privacy issue of all is missing:

    When using Google+, one company has unfettered access to your searches, page views, ad clicks, social graph, email, calendar, chats, documents, photos, location, and interests.

    Apple and Microsoft have (theoretically) had access to all of this via your desktop OS for years, and so has the NSA (via AT&T) so maybe it's no big deal. Still, Google, like Facebook, is an advertising company. You are not the customer -- you are the product.

    • by Urkki (668283)

      You are not the customer -- you are the product.

      Nah, we're only resources, and will become products only after Google starts to make us to be more monetizable, change us to be easier to sell. To do that, Google would have to change the way we read e-mail, search and browse the web, share videos and photos... Ok, fine, we're products.

    • by Shihar (153932)

      Apple and Microsoft have (theoretically) had access to all of this via your desktop OS for years, and so has the NSA (via AT&T) so maybe it's no big deal. Still, Google, like Facebook, is an advertising company. You are not the customer -- you are the product

      I never really understood this fear. My personal data in the hands of a reputable company really doesn't scare me. Google serving up targeted ads that I might actually like seems like a feature, not a bug. The only really 'scary' thing about personal data is when criminals get it, corporations of ill repute get it, employers get it, and when a malicious government gets it.

      Criminals having this data is bad for obvious reasons. With that much data, nailing down my financial accounts and preventing a phish

    • by Rexdude (747457)

      Of course the biggest privacy issue of all is missing:

      When using Google+, one company has unfettered access to your searches, page views, ad clicks, social graph, email, calendar, chats, documents, photos, location, and interests.

      That's the Faustian bargain you already signed up for when you created a Google account. However, I'd still trust them more than say Facebook for the following reasons:
      1) You can quit any time you want and export all your data (though Facebook also permits this).
      2) You can block the privacy invading features with the appropriate browser extensions and hacks (face it, given that you're on Slashdot and talking about privacy, you won't find any problem rooting your Android phone and putting Droidwall on it, or

    • by mgblst (80109)

      You are right, nobody should be talking about this. What a waste of a good story. Lucky we have some sarcastic dick to entertain us with his opinion such as you, to actually make this readable.

      Not everything is a criticism, and you sound like somebody defending Google.

  • I've got a question. Has anyone heard or read anything about whether or not Google tethers your search history/data with your Google+ profile once you sign up? I know Google scrapes search data based on cookies or something. I know that G-mail, Youtube, and Google Voice accounts are loosely linked (though I really don't know what that means at all). However, I haven't heard anything about whether or not G+ will use your search data to post "more relevant" ads to your profile space as you browse or anything.
    • If that is a concern, use a VM, use a live CD, use a LIVE USB stick, boot from another hard drive, install Deep Freeze, take a snapshot beforehand and restore, run incognito mode, Install chrome-run incognito mode-uninstall chrome, Burn your PC after, Format C:\, Thermite, Use another machine. Use another machine in combination with one of the afromentioned solutions.

      Bueller??....Bueller???
      • I just wanted to hide my porn habits...not post the full text of the Scientology cult-manuals .... errrr .... "holy texts."
    • by RJFerret (1279530)

      You can simply review their Privacy Policy [google.com], which is dang respectable IMO.

      G-mail and Google Voice aren't really linked, but both display your contacts. I believe they also added the ability to place a call from the gmail interface?

      Anyways, I've seen no correlation of those services to YouTube at all.

      This page [google.com] allows you to control whether Google profile info is used to customize ads or not (accessible without Google+).

      If you are paranoid about searches, simply disable cookies (or use Firefox's Private Brow

      • Thanks! I can't access a lot of Google stuff from my day-use computer, so I had to ask rather than Google Google....um...yeah.

        Anyways, thanks for the info.!

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