Posts tagged "google buzz"

#SXSW: Don't Worry, Privacy is Alive! (But Tech is Stupid)

We’ve certainly heard plenty from CEOs about privacy being dead and all, but considering the heat coming from related debates, perhaps it’s time to hear from the opposing team.

Danah Boyd, social media researcher for Microsoft, took the stage at this year’s SXSW conference, and with her 10+ years in the social realm, claimed privacy is alive (but not well), and schooled us on the intricacies of screw-ups from some of the biggest names out there: Google and Facebook.

Where Google Went Wrong

It was such huge news that even if you’re not big on Internet life, chances are you’re aware that the blogosphere virtually bitch-slapped Google Buzz back to the laboratory. The arguments mainly revolved around privacy flaws—even Google has admitted to releasing the tool much too early—but Boyd made an interesting point: Nothing the Buzz team did was technologically wrong—it was just stupid.

What does that mean? It means Google tripped up on a personal expectation level. After all, regardless of how difficult it was to find them, the options to opt out of all the things that sent users into conniption fits were available since day one.

Here’s a look at Google’s non-technical mistakes, according to Boyd:

Google launched a public-facing service within a very private one. That is, the outspoken Buzz set up shop within Gmail. For many tech geeks it was a logical move on Google’s part simply because Gmail is used regularly by a ton of people. But the integration of opposing natures confused a lot of non-tech users, and caused them to believe their e-mails were being made publicly accessible

Google assumed that people would opt-out of Buzz if they didn't want to participate. “I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one because a more insidious framing would be to say that they wanted to force people into opting-in because this makes the service more viral and more monetizable,” said Boyd. “While I'm trying not to let conspiracy theories cloud my analysis, I can't help but notice that more and more companies are opting people in and waiting until they flip out to adjust privacy settings.”

Where Facebook Went Wrong

Perhaps you remember Facebook's changes in December? The world's favorite social network asked users to reconsider their privacy settings via popup. Unfortunately, tons of users bypassed the popup as if it were an ad because they just wanted to get to Facebook itself. Problem is, if the popup wasn’t addressed, Facebook automatically changed all of the "negligent" user’s settings to public.

This from a platform  that built its reputation on being a closed network—something users have always valued in a big way. 

“By continuously arguing that Privacy is Dead, technologists justify their efforts to make publicly available data more public,” continued Boyd. “But there's a big difference between something being publicly available and being publicized. I worry about how others are going to publicize this publicly available Facebook data and, more importantly, who will get hurt in the cross-fire.”

Ass [Out of] U [and] Me

Do you see a pattern here? It looks like networks are assuming what users want rather than asking them. Unfortunately, that logic would only work if everyone thought like a technologist and loved the idea of optimizing absolutely everything.

"What's at stake here is often not about whether or not something is public or private, but how public or private it is,” explained Boyd. “People are not used to having the paparazzi trail after them every time they leave their house. Yet, when we argue that there's nothing wrong with making something that happens in public more public, we are basically arguing that we have the right to sick the paparazzi on everyone, to turn anyone into a public figure."

The point? We’re a fickle bunch. Just because we put material in public places doesn’t mean we want it aggregated. And just because something is publically accessible doesn’t mean we want it publicized. And using information in unexpected ways is a recipe for disastrous media coverage.

What Hath We Wrought?

And so, what to do? Boyd says there's no magical formula for understanding privacy and publicity (rats). But she left us with some valuable words to chew on:

Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn't about hiding; it's about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.

And finally, for all the techies out there:

You are shaping the future. How you handle these challenging issues will affect a generation. Make sure you're creating the future you want to live in.

GRC Roll-up: Google Buzz, HITECH and Protecting High Value Data

This week, GRC chases social media, hospitals find themselves unprepared for new changes in records management and corporations risk losing valuable data.

Privacy v. Google Buzz

It’s not often that the worlds of social media and GRC overlap, but such is the case with Google Buzz. As you probably know, Buzz is Google’s social networking and messaging tool designed to integrate into Gmail.

As the rest of the world tries to figure out how exactly to embrace Buzz, financial advisers are also trying to figure out the compliance and regulatory ramifications. Since Google automatically enrolled Gmail users to the Buzz service and revealed the identities of the people whom they email most frequently — users' full names, not their nicknames — to every one of their contacts.

Additionally, financial advisory professionals must archive their social media content, and at present Buzz doesn’t offer an easy solution. Concerns over privacy are at the heart of the matter, of course. Just another way that social media is shifting the line between private and public that is sure to keep the financial industry up at night.

HITECH Leaves Many Unprepared

New privacy and security requirements for health information technology contained in the economic stimulus law have gone into effect. Already providers are reporting difficulties in complying with the new rules.

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act is intended to increase the use of Electronic Health Records (EHR) by physicians and hospitals and according to a recent survey, nearly a third of the 200 hospitals said they are not ready to meet all the law’s privacy and security requirements by the deadlines.

Much of the uncertainty points to a requirement of significant resources for implementation, but little guidance for how to do it. 

Protecting High Value Data from Spammers

It’s becoming easier and easier to execute successful spamming strategies online. According to a NetWitness' report, 68,000 account logins were stolen from 75,000 botted PCs in corporate networks and as a result corporations are having a difficult time keeping ahead of it.

Organizations without continuous, real-time monitoring in place will find themselves unable to detect this type of activity. Rather than focusing on the defense of network perimeters or on meeting compliance checklists, corporations can be better prepared by focusing on protecting high-value corporate data.

Facebook Buys Talent, Ready to Counter Google Buzz?

 And the shopping sprees continue! Facebook (nsite) recently bought an under-the-radar company called Octazen Solutions—its first purchase since acquiring FriendFeed seven months ago.

Facebook’s Got Talent

The team behind the second most popular website in the U.S. is referring to the purchase as a “small talent acquisition.” Said the Facebook team: “We’ve admired the engineering team’s efforts for some time now and this is part of our ongoing effort to add experienced, accomplished technical talent.”

It’s worth mentioning that Facebook’s purchase of FriendFeed was also described as an addition of talent, but the conditions this time are different. While FriendFeed continues to operate separately from Facebook a whole seven months after being acquired, Octazen is already closing its doors. Once an importing solution for webmail contacts, the company’s site now states the following:

…effective immediately, Octazen will no longer accept new service contracts or renew existing service contracts, and will enter a transition period to wind down operations. During this transition period, Octazen will continue to honor existing service contracts and will remain your point-of-contact. We wanted to inform you as soon as possible to ensure you have adequate time to select another service provider without disruption to your business. We will do our best to work with you to ensure a smooth transition.

What is Facebook Up To?

These days it’s silly to take acquisitions lightly, especially when it comes to the shopping habits of giants like Facebook or Google (who, incidentally, just picked up social search engine Aardvark and a mobile text-search tool called reMail).

Interestingly, Octazen’s raison d’etre was similar to what Google Buzz got maimed for: Importing social network users' contacts from e-mail services into their social networks, except without all the messy privacy issues of course.

Users can already find new Facebook buddies via major services like AIM and Gmail, but with Octazen’s added capabilities Facebook may be able to determine user relationships on other social networks and e-mail services around the Web.

Could this acquisition be an answer to Google Buzz and the Google consolidation phenomenon? We’re willing to bet so, at least in part.

Social Media Minute: Facebook Rockets to #2, Mobile is Hot With Socialites

Social media moves so fast, it's hard to keep up. Here are the week's top stories in scan-friendly format:

  • Facebook is now Number Two Site in the U.S.
  • PleaseRobMe Lets Burglars Know When You're not Home
  • Google Admits to Privacy Foul-up
  • Social Networking is Hotter on Mobile than Desktop Web

Facebook Now Number Two Site in the U.S.

The ever-popular social networking site Facebook has moved ahead of a web pioneer company to become the second most popular site in the US. According to, an Internet analytics company, Facebook is now generating more online traffic than Yahoo.

In January, Facebook was accessed by 133 million unique visitors in the United States, whereas Yahoo garnered 132 million visitors in the same time frame. As a blog post points out, Facebook is also doing very well in the user engagement arena as well. This means that when a Facebook user comes to the web site, they stay on the site for long periods of time, a figure advertisers look to for where to market their goods.

With Facebook crossing the mark of having 400 million users, there is no indication of this traffic growth letting up. With Google ahead of Facebook in terms of monthly traffic, we will all watch and see if Facebook surpasses the search giant in web site popularity amongst U.S. web surfers.

PleaseRobMe Points out When You're not Home

Location based sites (LBS) and games are very popular amongst smart phone owners right now. Services such as Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla allow you to share your location (and play a game in Foursquare's case) with the public and your social network. If Twitter was voyeuristic, these new class of games take it to a whole new level.

One site, called aggregates all the updates that folks using these LBS sites and points out "all those empty homes out there." This is because if you're checked in at the Starbucks down the street, your house might be empty for burglars to potentially pay you a visit.

The site has garnered some privacy concerns, but is is pointed out that PleaseRobMe is merely aggregating publicly available information that anyone could find on Twitter. What about you, do you use location based games? Does this site and others alike give you pause the next time you 'check-in"?

Google Admits To Privacy Foul-up

Google launched their Facebook-like social application Buzz and was immediately flooded with privacy concerns from the public regarding the information it allows to see. With Buzz, personal email addresses could be harvested by merely viewing the messages going back and forth between users. Also, without any action by the user, your Gmail and Google Talk contacts were publicly revealed for everyone to see.

At the onset of Google Buzz's launch, many users online protested via Twitter, blogs and other outlets. Google made adjustments over the weekend and now users have more control on what content Buzz displays to the all Internet users. Why did Google let this happen? Buzz was initially used internally to Google, where all email address are available amongst co-workers. When Buzz was made public, they didn't envision the privacy issue until after the public outcry was all over the Internet.

The ironic part of Google's privacy failure is that recently, rival Facebook has received loads of criticism for their handling of similar privacy matters. Users online are very particular about the manner in which their private information is used on the Internet. Google will hopefully take the Buzz incident into mind when rolling out other social systems in the future.

Social Networking Is Hotter on Mobile Than Desktop Web

A study out of Ruder Finn, shows that Americans are using their mobile phone for a period of around three hours per day. That begs the question: what do people do on their phones for that long?

The mobile web is mainly being used to socialize with friends, family and colleagues. Finn's study show that 91% of mobile phone users are making connections with friends. This is compared to 79% who report using their computers for socializing.

These number point to a trend that has been covered here on Social Media Minute, cell phone users are highly social folks who utilize their mobile phone as a gateway for their friends. The mobile phone, therefore, can be seen as the ultimate onboarding device for social activities.

Recent figures show that smartphones now make up around 30% of sales volume in the mobile handset market. It is now 'cool' to have a smartphone and usage models are showing that more and more folks are using smartphones to access Facebook and other social networks. Advertisers and other stakeholders should be on notice: people of all ages are hopping online via their mobile devices: how are you going to reach this new market?

Google Buys reMail, Prepping to Boost Mobile Inboxes?

Google Buys reMail, Prepping to Boost Mobile Inboxes?


Apparently Google’s shopping bug wasn’t squashed when it acquired social search startup Aardvark last week. The company has gone and bought up another email-based startup called reMail, but this time the focus is on mobile capabilities.  


Like Aardvark, reMail’s original team was sprinkled with ex-Googlers. reMail Founder and CEO Gabor Cselle, once worked on the Gmail team, and backer Sanjeev Singh helped build Gmail as well as co-founded FriendFeed.

Just Launched in August, the tool is an alternative to the native iPhone mail client. reMail provides a nifty iPhone application that gives users full text-search abilities for all of their e-mal, as well as storage for an entire account on the device using advanced compression techniques (word is you can fit 100,000 messages into 500 megabytes).

Back to G

Cselle reports that he will be returning to Google in Mountain View as a Product Manager on the Gmail team.

“Gmail is where my obsession with email started as an engineering intern back in 2004, and I’m thrilled to be coming back to a place with so many familiar faces,” he said. “reMail’s goal was to re-imagine mobile email, and I’m proud we have built a product that so many users find useful. Still, I feel like we’ve only seen the beginning of what’s possible. Google is the best place in the world to improve the status quo on how people communicate and share information. If you have what it takes to make these changes happen, I encourage you to reach out and come join me.

Meanwhile, reMail will be discontinued and has already been removed it from the App Store.

Do you smell incorporation? We do. Google’s been making too many moves in the social email and search field not to have something up their sleeve. The incorporation of reMail into Google’s own mobile technology could lead to a load of happy Android/Nexus owners, and, let’s face it, in the wake of Buzz a few new fans wouldn’t hurt.

Social E-Mail Wars: Outlook Integrates LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace

Rather than creating an in-house social networking tool like the thus-far-catastrophic e-disaster more commonly known as Google Buzz, Microsoft (site) has decided to integrate the elite right into their own platform.

Introducing LinkedIn, Facebook and Myspace for Outlook 2010:

The Outlook Social Connector

Social networking within e-mail isn’t a brand new idea; Outlook’s Social Connector (OSC) was first touched on by Microsoft in November of last year. The addition aims to be enterprise-y by connecting people with their colleagues in a familiar environment.

"We don't want this to sort of be the next great time waster in the workplace," pointed out Will Kennedy, a corporate vice president for the Office group.

Features include:

  • The People Pane A name, picture, and title for your colleagues whenever reading a message from them.
  • Rich history See a communications history for each person that sends you messages with access to the most recent messages and attachments.
  • Activities Download and see real-time activity for your colleagues from business and social networks.
  • Get friendly Request someone as a colleague or friend with one click. Synchronize those colleagues with Outlook and keep them up-to-date as their information changes.
  • SharePoint 2010 Connect to the new MySite social networking experience right out of the box with the OSC & SharePoint 2010.
  • Extensible A public SDK allows anyone to build a connection to business or consumer social networks.

microsoft_outlook_socnetworking.jpg Outlook Social Connector

LinkedIn for Outlook

LinkedIn for Outlook allows Office 2010 Beta users to connect the OSC to a public network for the first time. By doing so, you can take advantage of all that niftyness mentioned above. Yes, this means you can view your LinkedIn colleagues’ status updates and photos next to the e-mail messages they sent you.

Also, in case you haven't put two and two together, it also means that when a colleague updates their contact information in LinkedIn, their contact info is automatically updated within Outlook. The same goes for phones synced with Outlook—contact info from the Web is automatically synchronized with your mobile.

Facebook and Myspace Partnerships

Even though Kennedy says Microsoft doesn’t want the OSC to be viewed as a time waster, they’ve sprinkled some popular social networking platforms in as well. The integration of Facebook and Myspace offers all the same perks that the addition of LinkedIn does:

outlook_facebook.jpg Facebook for Outlook

Says the official Microsoft Outlook blog: “Our vision for Outlook (and the OSC) is to provide a communications hub that is vital to both professional and personal communications; by integrating with both Facebook and MySpace, Outlook 2010 enables you to connect not only to co-workers and colleagues, but with all of your friends and family within your Outlook Inbox.”

Social E-Mail

It's kind of a big deal now, wouldn't you say? And as hard as Microsoft tries to convince us all that this connector isn't a time-waster, it's highly unlikely it'll be seen that way—at least, in part. However, there two points of interest with this approach: The inclusion of LinkedIn will surely attract the fickle enterprise, and could be the one tick that equals staying power for this tool. Secondly, Microsoft didn't mess around with in-house solutions. This may or may not be Google's biggest mistake with Buzz (other than the whole privacy thing), as it seems people love them some Facebook and Twitter time (note: there's no talk of being able to push information towards Twitter or Facebook from within Outlook yet). 

Are we ready for everything Google, or is a combination of our favorites the golden ticket? It'll be interesting to watch these two solutions compete.

Get started by downloading Office 2010 Beta.

Google Grabs Aardvark Social Search for $50 Million

These days, staying away from Google is nearly impossible. Just ask ex-Googlers Max Ventilla and Nathan Stoll, who left the search giant to make their own engine – a social search tool called Aardvark – just to turn right back around and sell it to them.

Though Google has yet to confirm the purchase themselves, TechCrunch reports that Big G has paid out somewhere around US$ 50 million for Aardvark. This is significant because even though you might not have heard of them, the company is no small player.

Finding the Best Answer

Because it’s social, the engine requires users to register first. Once that’s all set, a user can ask any question and Aardvark will search for "the perfect person to answer." The idea is that instead of digging through pages of content, a user can get a direct answer the first time around. 

The success of the engine is, of course, entirely dependent on the number of users, the number of questions asked and the number of questions answered. As of October 2009, such stats looked like this: 

  • 90,361 users
  • 55.9% of users had created content
  • An average of 3,167.2 questions per day
  • 98.1% of questions asked on Aardvark were unique
  • 87.7% of questions submitted were answered (60% within the first 10 minutes)

What Will Google Do with Aardvark?

Honestly, who knows! Big G has had a social hair up their you-know-what for a long time now, but the itch has been particularly prevalent this year, highlighted exponentially by the release of Google Buzz. 

Google also kicked out a social search function of their own last month. The feature is still in beta, and you can see it in action if you've got a Google Profile. It  works sort of like Aardvark, except instead of posing a question to a load of strangers, Google Social Search digs up results related to a query from within your social circle.

For example, if you use Google to search for a restaurant like Denny's and a friend connected to you via your Profile has reviewed that restaurant on Yelp and connected Yelp to their Profile, their review will likely be in your social search results. This is great for discovering the Web activities of your friends, but not exactly direct and time-saving like Aardvark aims to be. 

Like most of Google's moves as of late, the addition of Social Search was seen by many as a challenge for Facebook. It will be interesting to see if and how the acquisition of Aardvark will continue that conversation.