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Lawmakers Ask For FTC Investigation of Google Buzz

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the always-with-the-investigating dept.

Google 131

angry tapir writes "Eleven US lawmakers have asked the FTC to investigate Google's launch of its Buzz social-networking product for breaches of consumer privacy. The representatives — six Democrats and five Republicans from the House Energy and Commerce Committee — noted in their letter that Google's roll-out of Buzz exposed private information of users to Google's Gmail service to outsiders. In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact list in Gmail with a person who has a 'sexually charged' username, the lawmakers said in the letter."

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penishead (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31687728)

Think of the children! We can't let them talk to people with sexually charged usernames! ESPECIALLY NOT OTHER CHILDREN!

There. Fixed that for you. (4, Insightful)

garcia (6573) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687732)

"In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact list in Gmail with a person who has a 'sexually charged' username, the lawmakers said in the letter."

In one case, the parents of a 9 year old girl weren't paying attention, like they should have been, while their daughter surfed the web and they were upset at their lack of parenting skills and decided it imperative that they defer to the Federal Government to help them solve this problem.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (3, Funny)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687772)

Because perverts and only perverts have "sexually charged" usernames on the internet!

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31687924)

Yep

--Luvs2spooge

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (4, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687962)

Yeah, and I bet you love a good spadding, don't you.

Pervert.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689250)

L4t3r4lu5: "7@lk l33t to me 8aby.. 0h y34H"

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

dubbreak (623656) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689314)

L4t3r4lu5 : "7@lK l33t t0 m3 8aBy... 0h y34H"

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688034)

"In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact list in Gmail with a person who has a 'sexually charged' username, the lawmakers said in the letter."

In one case, the parents of a 9 year old girl weren't paying attention, like they should have been, while their daughter surfed the web and they were upset at their lack of parenting skills and decided it imperative that they defer to the Federal Government to help them solve this problem.

GMail ToS:

2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google, or (b) you are a person barred from receiving the Services under the laws of the United States or other countries including the country in which you are resident or from which you use the Services.

9 you say?

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688080)

A 9y/o girl has a Buzz account. That, my friend, is the problem. To hell with mom and dad making sure you uses it responsibly...she should have it in the first place. She probably has a cell phone, too.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (3, Insightful)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689468)

THAT was the problem with Buzz. If you had a Gmail account, suddenly one day, BOOM! You had a Buzz account, too. There's a great deal of debate whether any action at all on the user's part was required in the initial launch to create the publicly shared "followers" list based on your contacts, but at most, a very poorly worded "confirmation" button was clicked. Even if you told Google, on the splash page announcing Buzz, that you were not interested in learning more about it, a "Buzz" label was still placed on your Gmail page, and clicking that link most definitely activated a "Buzz" account. It's really a misnomer to talk of a separate "Buzz" account, because it was part and parcel, and remains so, of the Gmail service. Even now, having turned off every bit of Buzz that I possibly can with Google, it's still possible for people to "follow" my Gmail account. They can't actually see anything I do, Google swears to me, but the mere fact that I can have followers means that just by virtue of having a Gmail account, I am at least some part of the Buzz system. In other words, it ain't the parents' fault that the child had a Buzz account. Facebook, yeah, you can hold the parents responsible for that, because it takes actual conscious action by a user to go to Facebook and create an account and give it information about yourself. Google removed that hassle from us by adding us into Buzz whether we wanted to or not. Buzz is the most obnoxious and evil thing Google has ever done.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688260)

From Google's TOS:

2. Accepting the Terms

2.3 You may not use the Services and may not accept the Terms if (a) you are not of legal age to form a binding contract with Google, or (b) you are a person barred from receiving the Services under the laws of the United States or other countries including the country in which you are resident or from which you use the Services.

What is a 9yr old girl doing with a gmail account in the first place if she is not of legal age?

Why Does a 9 Year Old Need an E-Mail Address? (2, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688264)

The cellphone thing I get. "I'm lost, bad man following me," understood. But an e-mail address? Doesn't fly. It's not like e-mail is some great technological novelty, the quicker a child is exposed to it, works with it, develops skills with it, the better s/he will do later on in school. Use of e-mail is monkey-hammer dead simple, is "mastered" in twenty minutes. And the only "social networks" the kid needs to be on is the one that ensures she gets a good seat on the school bus or cafeteria table.

Re:Why Does a 9 Year Old Need an E-Mail Address? (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688640)

Speaking as a divorced parent, my kid had an email account specifically to communicate with me from another country. I didn't like it but it's a lot easier to coordinate than IM and phone conversations with a significant time difference.

That said, she was never allowed any social networking accounts until well after she was 14, which is still too young, in my opinion, but a bit more reasonable.

Re:Why Does a 9 Year Old Need an E-Mail Address? (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689116)

The cellphone thing I get. "I'm lost, bad man following me," understood. But an e-mail address? Doesn't fly.

It's so she can notify the fire department when her office catches fire. [youtube.com]

Re:Why Does a 9 Year Old Need an E-Mail Address? (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690626)

When I was 9, I wrote letters to friends who didn't live near me (for example, children my age of people my parents met at university). If I were 9 now, I'd probably want to exchange emails with them instead. I don't see anything particularly wrong with this, at the very least it would improve the child's typing ability, which might still be important when they leave school if we haven't invented a better means of text entry by then.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688290)

That doesn't mean Google should get off for its rather facebook-esque manner of autofollowing everyone on the contact list.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (4, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688366)

Old "parenting skills": 1) Place child in front of TV. 2) Insert Disney DVD 3) Press "Play". 4) Return in 90 minutes. 5) Repeat.

New "parenting skills": 1) Place child in front of computer. 2) Turn on computer. 3) Before going to bed, put the child in bed.

It is said that our children are the future . . . so let's worry about them then, and not now.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688610)

Well said! We need to teach our kids useful life skills, like posting expert opinions on subjects of which they have no personal knowledge.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688782)

The problem is, he's correct in many instances. I know parents who do both. The young ones are in front of the TV all the time and the older kids are on the internet all the time, without any supervision. That's one family with kids aged 5 to 16.

I know others with all young kids(aged 3-8) who do the tv thing for a babysitter, and still others with older kids(aged 10-15) who use the internet with no supervision as a way to get their kids "out of their hair".

This is pretty common behavior for bad parents, and unfortunately bad parents are a growing portion of the total.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31689094)

Oh, to have mod points right about now...

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (2, Insightful)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688684)

Meh. You left out a few, here's one:

Older "parenting skills": 1) Place child in yard. 2) Go back to whatever you were doing 3) Whup the kids if they get back after dinnertime.

Here's the thing... a lot of parents just don't understand that letting their kids use the internet unsupervised puts them in potential contact with EVERY person who also has internet access. Period.

This requires fundamental differences in how child's play is supervised, if you wish to avoid the headaches unfettered internet access creates. Because of the limited (and/or different) danger posed by other recreational activities, parents need to understand that they need to be much, much more participatory in internet activity with their kids than with other things their kids do.

Unfortunately, many parents either don't realize this, don't make the time for it, or don't care.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688926)

Any parent with common sense taught their children how to operate the DVD player so they could better ignore their children.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689182)

Old "parenting skills": 1) Place child in front of TV. 2) Insert Disney DVD 3) Press "Play". 4) Return in 90 minutes. 5) Repeat.

Old? That's practically futuristic. The old parenting technique goes like this:

  1. Send child to work in a coal mine.
  2. There is no step two.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

elf (18882) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689238)

I'm clearly doing it wrong. In my case it's more like "3) hope your child goes to bed at some point" =)

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (5, Funny)

discord5 (798235) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688422)

"In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact list in Gmail with a person who has a 'sexually charged' username, the lawmakers said in the letter."

In one case, the parents of a 9 year old girl weren't paying attention, like they should have been, while their daughter surfed the web

In other news a Mr. Dick Johnson also known to some as Richard Johnson was arrested last night for the use of his obscene name on the internet. Mr Johnson, a youth councelor at a local elementary school, was exposed to have an obscene name on the internet by the social networking service Google Buzz.

"We never questioned the mans name," spoke a school representative, "until he was found using the internet. I guess he contacted one of the parents and with the whole social-thingy-network of the Googles his name spread to children online. Stern action must be taken against people with silly names and Google to protect our children."

In the meantime an organisation has formed to protest this incident. The organisation known as "Protecting Eccentric Names from Internet Surfers" (P.E.N.I.S.) is making a stance against social networking incidents where the use of proper names has sparked incidents with parents of young children. Willy Dickins, head of the P.E.N.I.S. committee, commented that his name has often lead to misunderstandings. "Last year I got arrested for befriending someone on facebook and trying to send them a message", Willy spoke, "since that day I've been using the pseudonym FreeWilly, which is symbolic for me wanting to be free to use my own name again."

"It's all about the perception of my name and the context people see it in." said private Parts, a soldier in marine corps, "When I go online with my rank and surname, people automatically label me as a pervert.". The ever growing member list of P.E.N.I.S. shows that this problem is growing fast, and with the advent of technology expanding into areas where children may be confronted with these dubious names.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688622)

I see your Dick Johnson, and raise you a Dr. Dick Chopp, who performs vasectomies: http://www.urologyteam.com/dr-richard-chopp [urologyteam.com]

Anyone care to go higher?

I guess, considering the procedure that is about to be performed, a little chuckle about the name might lighten the ordeal.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

Asclepius99 (1527727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689200)

That is fantastic!

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690584)

I raise you a Dick Cheney! Owning his own secret stamp, a man-sized safe, shooting his friend in the face (*nudge-nudge*), looks like Darth Vader and Dr Betruger’s love child in a wheel chair, and having the child censorship filter he promoted block his own site for sexual content (his name: Dick).

You can not possibly beat that one! ^^
(Also, you don’t want to. Ewww...)

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688848)

Couldn't you have ended it with:

"And when it comes to technology expanding into areas where children are, members are saying that P.E.N.I.S. is growing faster than ever."

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31689076)

Be glad you don't live in China where Wang is a common name. Maybe 1 in 20 men is called Mr. Wang

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (4, Insightful)

Tharsman (1364603) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688530)

"In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact list in Gmail with a person who has a 'sexually charged' username, the lawmakers said in the letter."

In one case, the parents of a 9 year old girl weren't paying attention, like they should have been, while their daughter surfed the web and they were upset at their lack of parenting skills and decided it imperative that they defer to the Federal Government to help them solve this problem.

Maybe, just maybe, mommy and daddy did their work and considered Gmail safe. And maybe, just maybe, Google decided it was OK to opt everyone into Buzz without letting anyone know about it.

People in /. love to blame this kind of stuff on parents, but fact is, Google pushed Buzz into any gmail user without informing properly. It just suddenly showed up there. You would have to do daily audits of every single action your child takes in the internet if you wanted to catch this, and even then it would had been easy to miss the change.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688776)

Maybe, just maybe, mommy and daddy did their work and considered Gmail safe.

Then they should get a failing grade on their work. The only way Gmail can be considered safe for kids (going by these parents' desire to avoid sexually-charged content) is if you whitelist incoming and outgoing mails with parental control over the lists and then monitor every incoming mail for content before allowing the kid to read it.

Instead these parents wanted Google to do their job for them.

Now, I'm all for companies acting responsibly and providing tools for parental controls to help parents. But ultimately it is up to parents to implement these tools, and where they are not present, come up with their own methods to implement controls.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1, Insightful)

Dunega (901960) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689058)

Maybe, just maybe, mommy and daddy did their work and considered Gmail safe.

Maybe, just maybe, but most likely not. A 9 year old should not be using the internet unsupervised, period.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

Akita24 (1080779) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689730)

Considering that it's a violation of the TOS to have an account and not be of legal age, the parents either cut their 9 y/o loose on the WorldWideEvil, or were negligent in their assessment that it was "safe." Google "told" them it was unacceptable for a minor to use the service.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688762)

However, when the US government awarded a patent to Microsoft to sell your photos, information and calendar information to the highest bidder, they didn't think that was a problem.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688808)

In this day and age, the owner of said username was probably a 9 year old boy. What on earth was a 9 year old girl doing unsupervised on a GMail account. If the feds find against Google on this, then they should also find against the parents for child neglect.

This is like those cases where 10 year olds get perverted messages on Facebook because they lied about their age and their parents weren't watching them closely enough.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690080)

And THAT right there, the expecting tech to be the babysitter and running to nanny government when it isn't all Sesame Street, is what pisses me off. As a man raising two boys I am proud to say while my boys have always had access to tech I have never allowed it to do my job. When my boys wanted to play video games I didn't just hand them a "magic box" but instead I showed them how it works, how pixels were drawn, how characters were made and how editing DOOM WADs (remember those?) allowed them to change what they saw.

And now that they are teens and each have their own Internet PCs they know that I WILL be checking their PCs for inappropriate content, and that any attempt at clearing cache will get their machines taken away. By actually sitting down and explaining the dangers and how easy it is to fake one's identity on the Internet, you know, actually doing my job as a parent, my boys are cautious and responsible net citizens. I am really proud to say the oldest spends his time on forums talking to med students so he knows what classes to knuckle down on for when he starts med school this fall, while the youngest spends all his time reading tutorials on the use of shading and other graphic arts techniques so he'll be ready for taking computer art in college.

What is sad is picking up the boys from one of their friends houses, where many don't even have so much as a single book in the home! Whereas my mom read Asimov and Heinlein to my boys when they were little just like she read them to me (aaaw!) these people simply plop down in front of the idiot box and do the same to their kids. Expecting nanny government to child proof the world just because you as a parent refuse to do your job is just going too damned far IMHO. Now if you'll excuse me I get to go enjoy several small heart attacks as I give the oldest yet another driving lesson. If you want to get the hell scared out of you just give a teenage boy driving lessons, beats a roller coaster any day of the week, trust me on this one.

Re:There. Fixed that for you. (3, Informative)

Have Brain Will Rent (1031664) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690618)

Normally I am the first one up with the "parents need to be responsible for what their kids are doing" flag. I was raised at a time when there wasn't much concern/awareness of sexual predators, skinned knees, occasional fights and so on and we were allowed, by parents considered to be quite conscientious for the time, to run free to an extent that today would get most kids seized by child welfare. And I certainly don't want to live in a society that is run at the level of the lowest common denominator of human intelligence and emotional sensibilities.

But there has to be an element of realism to all this. Even the best of parents cannot monitor their children 24/7. Do the kids have access to a computer anywhere else, like say at school? Well then how can a parent control that? Do the kids ever visit their friend's house where there is a computer? Then, other than never letting their kids visit the homes of their friends, how can the parents exercise absolute control over that?

And let's not forget the most important thing... kids are smart and learning 24/7 how to do what they want to do and unless parents are spending 24/7 trying to keep ahead of the the kid's learning curve then the kids will get access to things without the knowledge of their parents.... or at least without the real-time knowledge of their parents. Want to bet who knows more about smart phones - an average 12 year old or an average 35 year old? I'd bet on the 12 year old.

So let's start from the realistic premise that even good parents cannot monitor their kids at all times. And let's also realize that even good parents cannot instil adult level sensibility in a child, i.e. kids do dumb/dangerous/risky/strange things because they are kids.

If you accept that premise then one question that arises will be what can the rest of us (sometimes known as society) do to protect kids from their more dangerous activities? And the next question might be "will enacting that protection harm the rights of adults (sometimes known as society) to a degree that makes it difficult to justify the benefit received by the children?"

a "sexually charged" username (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687742)

a "sexually charged" username

What, like Dick Dynamo?

Re: a "sexually charged" username (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31687824)

I was thinking more along the lines of "Tesla Poon"

Re: a "sexually charged" username (4, Funny)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687858)

Tragically, you're wrong. See, the 9yr old is a member of the Dick van Dyke fan club, and has regular conversations online with him via email.

His username? penisvanlesbian@gmail.com

Sucks, he wasn't doing anything wrong. :(

Re: a "sexually charged" username (2, Funny)

pitchpipe (708843) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688332)

Tragically, you're wrong. See, the 9yr old is a member of the Dick van Dyke fan club, and has regular conversations online with him via email.

His username? penisvanlesbian@gmail.com

I thought it was richardvanlevee@expertSexchange.org

Re: a "sexually charged" username (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31689130)

Sucks, he wasn't doing anything wrong. :(

iseewhatyoudidthere

Re: a "sexually charged" username (1)

2obvious4u (871996) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688210)

Biggus Dickus [youtube.com]

Re: a "sexually charged" username (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31689136)

No. Like DICKCheney

Re: a "sexually charged" username (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31689750)

It's been said before: Jesus loves Dick. I know I do.

Evil (2)

headkase (533448) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687766)

Why are politicians so evil? It's one thing to say that it could be a privacy issue: look into that. But when they start getting in "sexually charged" terminology its like saying the email name was "RepublicanDick." It's fear mongering and grandstanding, nothing more.

Adaptation (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31687922)

If you suddenly discovered a way of phrasing your requests to your boss that always got you what you wanted, wouldn't you always try to phrase things that way?

We are the bosses of the politicians, so when the politicians realize that they can get whatever they want if they wave the for-the-children flag, I think we can easily understand why they do it so often.

Re:Adaptation (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690636)

If you suddenly discovered a way of phrasing your requests to your boss that always got you what you wanted, wouldn't you always try to phrase things that way?

No, I wouldn't, especially not if I was doing a public service. Because sometimes, shockingly, there are things more important than whether or not I get what I want, such as, oh, say, the truth. If you aren't dealing with the truth, you probably won't actually solve the problem.

I'll understand if you think it's a bit naive to expect that sort of attitude from others though.

Re:Evil (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687968)

Why are politicians so evil? It's one thing to say that it could be a privacy issue: look into that. But when they start getting in "sexually charged" terminology its like saying the email name was "RepublicanDick." It's fear mongering and grandstanding, nothing more.

Or Dick chainlike

Re:Evil (3, Interesting)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688148)

I don't think it's a case of politicians being evil in things like this. It's a case of being more emotional than logical. Logically, if you solve the privacy angle, you solve the rest of it, but emotionally, the "children must be protected" clouds their thinking. It's more important than privacy, to their thinking.

Re:Evil (2, Insightful)

Jawn98685 (687784) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688170)

Hey, it's an election year and I need all the mileage I can get out of whatever "...protected the children..." headlines I can generate, you insensitive clod.

Re:Evil? (1)

Kazoo the Clown (644526) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690040)

Why are politicians so evil?

Evil, hell-- I'm just wondering why they have so much TIME on their hands...

Won't somebody think of the children (3, Insightful)

Useful Wheat (1488675) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687768)

Please! Won't somebody think of the children surfing the internet without adult supervision! Gmail only added people that you had repeated email correspondence with, which means that the 9 year old girl was perfectly capable of picking up sexual predators on her own. Also? Putting any kind of responsibility on the parents is clearly across the line.

Re:Won't somebody think of the children (1)

Asclepius99 (1527727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689258)

Thank you! I'm sick of all these people saying my children are somehow my responsibility.

Re:Won't somebody think of the children (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689302)

Gmail only added people that you had repeated email correspondence with, which means that the 9 year old girl was perfectly capable of picking up sexual predators on her own.

This also means that Buzz may have actually exposed sexual predators, who would have remained hidden otherwise. Assuming there was any sexual predation involved, of course.

Google (-1, Troll)

homer_s (799572) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687800)

I hope Google gets reamed for this. Not because I think they did anything wrong, but because they're always too happy to get the government to meddle in other companies' business; they need to get a dose of the same medicine.

Re:Google (1)

Metrathon (311607) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687890)

Could you elaborate on that? What other companies are you talking about?

Re:Google (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687982)

I think he's probably a Chinese government astroturfer. They've been attacking Google ferociously on the web for the past few weeks.

Re:Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31687990)

He's a Microsoft shill, don't expect anything coherent.

Re:Google (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687998)

cell phone carriers, telephone companies and ISP's

that's why I have a hotmail account... (3, Interesting)

nycguy (892403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687876)

...because Microsoft isn't capable of even attempting something like Buzz.

In all seriousness, though, between Google's handling of the Buzz launch, Facebook's handling of privacy settings, etc., it's pretty clear that the users of these services are the product, not the services themselves.

Re:that's why I have a hotmail account... (4, Interesting)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687920)

MS is an investor in facebook. why reinvent the wheel when you can just invest in someone to do it for you?

Re:that's why I have a hotmail account... (3, Insightful)

mweather (1089505) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688408)

"t's pretty clear that the users of these services are the product," As is the case of every single ad supported medium. TV, news, magazines, search engines, blogs, you name it.

Re:that's why I have a hotmail account... (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#31690572)

Facebook's handling of privacy settings

Anyone who makes this statement is a fucking moron. I stress the fucking part.

Facebook is for voyeurs. You don't post shit to facebook unless you want people to see it. Every single facebook user wants the attention and likes to be looked at.

If you think at any point anything you do on Facebook, or the Internet as a whole is private, you don't need to be using the Internet. You are too stupid to qualify to use it. Turn off your computer until you realize that sharing information on a public website on a public network means ITS NOT FUCKING PRIVATE AND NEVER WILL BE.

Idiot.

Just wait until Bigus Dickus hears of this! (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687912)

I think it's a joke name, sir, like 'Sillius Soddus' or 'Bigus Dickus'.

But I have a vewy gweat fwiend in Wome named 'Bigus Dickus'!



Low hanging fruit ... I know.

Re:Just wait until Bigus Dickus hears of this! (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689334)

He's got a sister you know!

Re:Just wait until Bigus Dickus hears of this! (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689410)

Do you know what she's called? Incontinentia...

...Incontinentia Buttocks!

Always a good idea to attack the strongest link (2, Funny)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 3 years ago | (#31687954)

If I were to fight the "dangers" an unsupervised 9 year old can find on the web I'd clearly start by how he uses a particular function in a particular website. /sarcasm

It's frightening to think that someone can publicly say such idiocies and journalists (or whoever hears him first) won't directly laugh in his face and call him names.

Oh wow (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688120)

You know, one time I accidentally almost made a left turn when I should have made a right turn, maybe we can investigate traffic lights next.

        -- "UberCharged"

Oops (1)

Megahard (1053072) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688144)

Time to scrub my hard drive.

Just a thought... (2, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688254)

Why did a 9 year old girl have contact with someone with a "sexually charged username?" I don't recall Google Buzz automatically setting me up with every Tom, Dick and Harry that was in my address book (which itself seems to be generated by the contact info of the people you knowingly contact)...

Re:Just a thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688590)

every Tom, Dick and Harry

I think you meant "Tom, Dick, and Hairy".

Re:Just a thought... (2, Informative)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688960)

I keep hearing how others were set to auto-follow others. I did not have this experience. Buzz suggested people for me to follow from my Contacts, but I didn't auto-follow anyone.

Re:Just a thought... (5, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689118)

The auto-follow feature was set for people you had repeated correspondence with - i.e. lots of gmail conversations.

In other words, this 9 year old wasn't introduced to the person with the "sexually charged username", whatever the hell that means, the kid had been talking to this guy many times well before Buzz launched.

Buzz just made it plain that the two had been corresponding for some time now.

I swear, politicians have to be some of the dumbest fucking people on earth, it drives me insane sometimes.

Re:Just a thought... (1)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689576)

No, no, no. You don't understand what Buzz did. Once Google auto-completed the contacts list, that list was PUBLIC. There's nothing in TFA to suggest that the 9 year old girl had been corresponding with the "sexually charged username." If the girl activated Buzz (which was very, VERY easy to do without realizing what Google was doing to you) in the first day or two of its operations, then all of her 9 year old friends would be listed automatically as her followers, and THAT list of followers was made public. Google changed it pretty quick, because it was just so freakin' ridiculously bad, but that's how it worked the first few days of operation. After that, Google restricted it so that if you didn't have a public profile, your name wouldn't show up in anybody's public list of followers, and you could decide whether to make your list of followers public or not, but the initial defaults was PUBLIC for everything associated with Buzz.

Re:Just a thought... (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689836)

Shhh, it's more fun to scream and rave about government intervention and parental inattention, because anytime anyone ever expresses any worry over children they're automatically alarmist fascists.

Is everyone here a Google apologist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688288)

Or do they work for Google?

I can't believe how much slack slashdotters are cuting google here...

Can you imagine if it was Microsoft that made this misake?
Or AOL had of?

What Google did was bad, 9 yr old or not.

What's wrong with slashdot?
Did google buy it too?
Or just evreyone that comments here?

Just how many people has Google brain washed into thinking that it is "cool" and every when it makes a serious fuckup, it is ok?

Re:Is everyone here a Google apologist? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688578)

Google did nothing but make something possible, something which responsible adults might have actually wanted to do. It just so happened that an unsupervised child that didn't know what she was doing (or didn't care) made use of that feature. Not Google's fault, the end. I don't think that /.ers would be any more or less bothered if some random unsupervised kid made use of a feature offered by MS or AOL. This isn't about coolness, it's about responsibility. So long as Google is not arbitrarily tossing contacts around without some kind of user initiation/authorization (which they are not), there is no issue here.

Google doesn't need apologists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688626)

Can you imagine if it was Microsoft that made this misake? Or AOL had of?

I've never used those companies' services, but assuming they also (like gmail) disclose in advance that they're not on your side, then if they had done the same thing, I would say the same thing:

You've got to be pretty apathetic about privacy, to use webmail. You've got to be even more apathetic, or maybe even an exhibitionist, if you decide to use a mail service, that like Gmail, up front in advance tells you that a robot who serves interests that conflict with your own, will be reading your emails. The very fact that a 9 year old was using gmail -- forget about this Buzz nonsense -- was already a surrender. Defeat was inevitable, long before Buzz came along. Buzz isn't the problem.

Folks, if you like the convenience of gmail, that's great. It's your decision. But don't ever think of it as being anything remotely like a "normal" email service or even slightly compatible with the previous status quo when it comes to privacy. And if you're telling your kids to use gmail, seriously: fuck you. Google and Biggus Dickus aren't your kid's most serious threats; you are.

Google apologist? No. Google gives you a gun that is locked into always aiming at your foot. Some people accept the gun. Some people even pull the trigger. While I certainly don't approve of Google doing this, I can't hold them 100% to blame, either. When you decide to go out of your way to shoot yourself in the foot, I think you're the one who really needs an apologist.

Tell your kid to put the gun down, and don't hand them guns like that one again.

Re:Is everyone here a Google apologist? (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688778)

I'll bite. Good troll, I guess. First nobody is saying Google doesn't deserve some inquiries, or at least none of the comments I've read. What people are saying is that the association of the 9 year girl has no bearing on this and politicians are slimy douchebags who are using this as a witch hunt to help them win votes at Google's expense.

Re:Is everyone here a Google apologist? (1)

Asclepius99 (1527727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689486)

I don't really understand what Google did besides auto-connect this girl with someone we was already in contact with. I have a gmail account and I had Buzz activated and every single person I've e-mailed from my gmail account was not automatically following me, nor did anyone I had never contacted suddenly appear on my contacts list.

Honestly this is how the article puts it: "In the original public version of Buzz, launched in February, the program compiled a list of the Gmail contacts the users most frequently e-mailed or chatted with and automatically started following those people. Those lists were made public, giving strangers access to the contacts of Buzz users." That doesn't even make any sense, why would your "most frequently e-mailed or chatted with" contacts be strangers? If the people you e-mail/chat with the most are people you have no idea who they are and how dangerous they are, then you have way bigger problems than them having your contacts list.

And it was a sexual user name. It wasn't a sexual predator or registered sex offender. I didn't even see anywhere in the article if they'd looked into who this person was. For all we know it was another 9 year old using sexual language because he's immature and thinks its funny.

The problem here isn't Google, it's parents/lawmakers not understanding what's happening and then reacting to it without real information. Now, I'm not going to pretend that the Google Buzz launch being opt out instead of opt in is okay with me. But this is a problem that capitalism solves itself, without the government. If it upset you that much that your contact list was shared with some people without your permission, stop using gmail/Buzz. If you want to send Google a letter saying you'll still use their services but are disappointed, that's fine too. But don't bring the government into this and don't have them pretend that this 9 year old was somehow put in anymore jeopardy than she (and her parents) had already her by regularly contacting this person.

privacy and technology (1)

h00manist (800926) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688354)

Somehow I think technology ultimately goes against privacy. Which deserves some thinking. People are entitled to privacy, the right to be left alone, but perhaps "right to privacy" is often confused, or abused, with a right to isolation, of self or others, to maintain ignorance of facts or events, to secrecy, or of doing illegal-immoral things out of sight. For example, many large properties have private slaves, but out of sight, where nobody can see. They have a right to their privacy. Technology's role is more complicated. It basically follows human will. But so far, it generally makes information go around faster, easier, wider. Any information, desirable or not. It can be used to block information too, but it tends to not work as well, perhaps because that's basically not how people work, as well. People are connected to each other, even when they are physically alone, society is ultimately a link, few people are really isolated. Breaking the privacy of people in power, on the things they do in secret with their authority, that influences their society negatively, might be in the interest of society, but not in that of their privacy. The privacy of individual citizens is, on the other hand, more and more eroded, and although it remains a right, it appears to be a right that is merely on paper, as increasingly privacy accompanies power.

Foes list (2, Funny)

OglinTatas (710589) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688372)

I hereby request all you 9 year old girls to add me to your foes list.

friends (3, Insightful)

jonpublic (676412) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688420)

Let's say I have some friends who despite my best efforts still do drugs. They have destructive tendencies. I try and help them out, steer them away from bad choices and towards good choices.

Do I really want someone who've I've emailed about a job to suddenly know that I am associated with people who have active drug problems?

Better yet, why should anyone else have access to the list of people I communicating with? People seem to be ignoring the privacy issue here and focusing on the 9 year old and the Google can do no harm bullshit.

Re:friends (1)

kyrio (1091003) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689350)

When I logged in after they started the service I had a screen asking me if I want to use Buzz. I clicked "no" and I haven't heard of it since. What's the issue exactly?

Re:friends (1)

PatHMV (701344) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689616)

You didn't log into the service in the initial days of operation, then. That's NOT what happened at all for people who clicked "no" on that initial splash screen. By the way, you might want to go to the Google dashboard and take a look at it to see if you have any "followers" or other data being exposed by Buzz that you're unaware of.

Sexually Charged? (1)

c (8461) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688442)

> In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact
> list in Gmail with a person who has a "sexually charged" username,
> the lawmakers said in the letter.""

So... basically, people who's parents didn't think things through [wikipedia.org] are automatically considered pedophiles?

c.

And they fixed it the next day (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688544)

Google fixed this the day after buzz was released. I'm sure it was a boneheaded move on their part, but at least they did something about it, unlike say, Facebook, who seems to want to always find new ways to expose people's profile info without their consent.

The letter itself... (2, Informative)

alispguru (72689) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688572)

is here [house.gov] .

Weird that nobody who reported on this linked to the original letter.

I went looking for it primarily to get the complete list of signers:

Joe Barton (TX), Frank Pallone (NJ), Mike Rogers (MI), Jan Schakowsky (IL), Tim Murphy (PA), Bruce Braley (IA), Mike Burgess (TX), G.K. Butterfield (NC), Steve Scalise (LA), and Donna Christensen (V.I.)

I was expecting to see someone from Redmond, WA in there...

Re:The letter itself... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31690148)

I find rogers and butterfield offensive.

oh, no! (1)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 3 years ago | (#31688628)

In one case, a 9-year-old girl accidentally shared her contact list in Gmail with a person who has a "sexually charged" username, the lawmakers said in the letter."

Oh, no, she superpoked DickCheney!

Re:oh, no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688758)

"I'm Dick Tracy! Take that Pruneface!
Now I'm Pruneface! Take that Dick Tracy!
Now I'm Prune Tracy! Take that Dick..."
"Stop that at once!"

Internet is not private? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31688654)

No kidding! Just dont tell these politicians about sites like Spokeo.com and the like. They would freak! I can hear them now:

"You mean people can research where I live and my information on the web? How can this be? What do you mean public records are available to the public?!?"

Stranger (2, Interesting)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689048)

Having read the letter, what concerns me is that this mother insists their daughter automatically shared private data with a complete stranger.

I think the politcians are overreacting. I get that. I think this is also a case of bad parenting to let a 9 year old have their own email address and not watch them when they're on the computer.

However, not only did Buzz not auto-follow anyone, but it never suggested a stranger to me. How would someone be in your Gmail contact list if you never had any contact with them before? It seems like this is all a major flawed premise that this girl was forced to have contact with this evil user without the girl's consent, when it reality that user was probably in the contact list for a reason.

Some perspective (4, Informative)

Daetrin (576516) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689296)

People seem to be jumping on either the "pro-Google" bandwagon or the "anti-'think of the children'" bandwagon left and right. So let's stop and consider this rationally.

Google has changed Buzz to address privacy concerns multiple times. In fact they made so many changes so quickly that it's hard to document exactly what settings it had when without a lot of research. However early on it was easily possible to have the following scenario:

"InnocentUser," a legal adult, has a Gmail account. (Let's even say they got one sometime after July 2009, so Gmail wasn't even in "beta" at the time, just to end-run one particular argument.) They've emailed a number of people using this account. They've also gotten several scary emails from "ImaPredator," which they never responded to.

When Buzz was launched InnocentUser's Google Profile was indexed. The easiest way for this to happen was to "try out" Buzz like Google urged everyone with a Gmail account. However numerous people have reported finding they had their Google Profile indexed without ever actually trying Buzz.

Once your Google Profile was automatically integrated with Buzz it would auto-follow anyone who you emailed with a lot. So InnocentUser has a lot of their usual contacts auto-followed and made visible in their Google Profile. Meanwhile ImaPredator joins Buzz, which notices they emailed InnocentUser a lot (regardless of the fact that InnocentUser never emailed back,) and auto-follows them. Now ImaPredator can go to InnocentUser's Google Profile and see the list of their most common contacts.

That's pretty bad. Of course it's even worse that perhaps InnocentUser did email back ImaPredator once, with a message saying something like "If you ever email me again I'm going to report you to the police." That's good enough for Buzz to decide InnocentUser ought to auto-follow ImaPredator as well! (Once of the people Buzz set me up to auto-follow was someone who i had a single email exchange with. Perhaps because it occurred very shortly before Buzz went live.)

There _was_ an option to disable Buzz. However initially at least all that did was remove the Buzz UI from your end. Your profile was still visible to others and still listed your regular contacts. CNET and other sites published detailed tutorials about how to _actually_ go through all the options and disable Buzz "for realz" because of all the privacy concerns.

When the inevitable, and in my mind quite justified, complaints started, Google went through several rounds of apologizing (but usually with weasel wording such as "we're sorry our users feel like their privacy has been violated" rather than "we're sorry we screwed up") and revising Buzz's behaviour and options. After the third or so revision they reached the point where it was halfway reasonable, and it was fairly easy for everyone who still didn't like it to actually turn it off.

Google definitely did something stupid. If they made the decision to auto-include everyone with a Gmail account in Buzz because they thought it was the only way to catch up with Facebook and Twitter in a reasonable amount of time then what they did could arguably be considered Evil as well. It's unfortunate that the lawmakers are pulling the "think of the children" card when Google clearly did something wrong regardless of the age of the people involved, but that doesn't somehow magically invalidate the wrongness. Google did try to correct things after the fact, but that doesn't change the fact that they did something wrong to begin with, and it's quite possible that some people were hurt by Google's mistakes before changes were implemented.

Certainly a slap on the wrist by the FCC would not be out of line. And an investigation into whether the issues were due to professional negligence or... whatever you call screwing over your users for a "quick buck," also seems quite reasonable to me. If something actually criminal was done (i leave it up to the actual lawyers to determine what would and would not be criminal in this case) then apologizing for it before the "police" actually catch you isn't enough to get you out of trouble. It doesn't work that way for the average citizen and it shouldn't work that way for corporations either.

Juxtaposition (1)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 3 years ago | (#31689866)

Oligarch 1:

Eleven U.S. lawmakers have asked the FTC to investigate Google's launch of its Buzz social-networking product for breaches of consumer privacy.

Oligarch 2:

Saying an old e-mail or your online photo album should have the same privacy protection from police as your home filing cabinet, Google, Microsoft and others said Tuesday they will ask Congress to overhaul a 24-year-old federal law that helps define online and mobile phone privacy.

Isn't it nice to have such honorable oligarchs? Nobly bickering over who gets to read my communications to serve their own ends, unhindered by petty respect for the intent and spirit of the 4th amendment.

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