At the keynote today at SXSW, Microsoft‘s Danah Boyd placed a lot of emphasis on Google’s privacy "fails" with Buzz. The topic of the keynote was the relationship between privacy and publicity, and she certainly covered much more territory and social media in general, but it was interesting that Google Buzz was essentially the first thing talked about.
A lot of people will love Buzz, and will use it, but that doesn‘t mean Google didn‘t mess up in terms of privacy, she said. She says that the company did nothing wrong technologically (there were multiple ways to opt out), but that Google managed to find the social equivalent of the "uncanny valley".
Google got in trouble by integrating a public facing system inside of one of the most intimate (Gmail), she said, adding that a lot of users believed Google was exposing their private email, even though this was never actually the case.
Google also assumed that people would opt out if they didn‘t want to participate, she said. She said she gives the company the benefit of the doubt, but she can’t help but notice that more companies are starting to think it’s ok to expose people and then back pedal once people flip out.
She said she kept meeting users who thought if they opted out, it would cancel their Gmail account.
With regard to Google’s handling of the situation, Boyd says they "foolishly" told users what they wanted to hear rather than asking them what they wanted to hear.
Make no mistake, the point of the keynote was much larger than pointing out Google’s failure, and it was quite a thought-provoking talk. Still, one can’t help but notice the excessive amount of jabs at Microsoft’s main rival, and emphasis placed on a very young product (the remainder of the speech’s focus was mostly placed upon Facebook and Twitter, with a little bit of Chat Roulette).