Google should be careful
Obviously I missed the whole Google Reader thing last week, but with the revelation that Google might be working on tying more ‘social’ functions into GMail, questions about Google, privacy and what it means to be ‘friends’ online are surfacing once again.
According to Alex Chitu, Google is working on something that looks a lot like the Facebook feed, but with your GMail contacs as your ‘friends.’ That, of course, is what started the whole Google Reader discussion last week, as GMail automatically adds any contact into its list, whether they be friends, family, business acquaintances or, as in my case, my students (I really don’t want my students to check out my family photos, for example).
Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins over on Mashable seems reasonably optimistic that Google will be able to navigate these issues:
I’m certain that the long delay from when I originally heard about the initiative to the point we’re starting to see clues of the eventual surfacing of the service means they’re well aware of these pitfalls, but I predict we’ll see at least two or three mini-fiascos on the level of the Google Reader thing, and possibly one large Project Bacn sized fiasco, if they aren’t careful.
What, though, is Google going to do? Clearly they can’t use the Google contacts (not even the most emailed contacts) without creating a user rebellion. Sure, users are used to using Google Talk in their email interface already, but do they really want even more information displayed on that page? Isn’t email overwhelming enough already?
Those who signed up for Facebook signed up for a social network. When I signed up for GMail, I signed up for email – no more. That’s really all I want to use it for, too. So if Google tries to give me more, that’s fine, but it needs to give me that option to black it all out with one click.