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Posts Tagged ‘wendy davis’

If you’ve read earlier posts on this blog, you know that I’m not a huge fan of Google Buzz. I really, really like Google, and their search engine is fantastic, but I never “got” Google Buzz. I think it’s because I’m not a big GMail user. Since Buzz is based off the GMail platform, your Buzz contacts are in your GMail address book.

I have six email accounts. GMail is the least used – and I have a whopping 17 contacts in my GMail address book. So, I’m not a great targeted user for Buzz.

Regardless of my personal thoughts about Buzz, I’ve noticed that the crescendo of applause that accompanied the launch of Google Buzz, lead by the guys at Mashable, seems to have become a whisper. This is exacerbated by the negative press that Buzz seems to attract, er, like a bee to honey.

Wendy Davis, writing in the Daily Online Examiner, reported today that regulators from 10 countries have complained that Google “betrayed a disappointing disregard for fundamental privacy norms” with the launch of Buzz. This was stated in a letter sent to Google by authorities from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

As quoted in the Daily Online Examiner, the letter states: “The privacy problems associated with your initial global rollout of Google Buzz on February 9, 2010 were serious and ought to have been readily apparent to you. In essence, you took Google Mail (Gmail), a private, one-to-one web-based email service, and converted it into a social networking service, raising concern among users that their personal information was being disclosed.”

You may recall that at launch, Buzz’s default settings disclosed the names of any Buzz user’s email contacts. Google soon changed the default settings to correct this and issued an apology.

As long as they have Google’s attention, the privacy police from the 10 countries also expressed their displeasure with Google’s Street View, claiming that it also violates the privacy threshold. Freedom of speech issues in the US negate most of this argument regarding Street View.

Oh, and Facebook. looks like you’re next up on the regulators’ agenda.

Beside the legal whoop-de-doo, Google should be more concerned that Buzz seems to have lost its own buzz. Am I wrong, or has it just not gained traction as a major social media app?

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Besides those ubiqutous and irritating pop-ups, Netflix now ratchets up their attempt to get encourage their customers ire. Now, Netflix jumps on the “Privacy Issue” bandwagon with a promotional contest that releases some user privacy informnation and may invite a class action law suit. Wendy Davis writes in the Daily Examiner Online:

” When Netflix released a trove of “anonymized” information about consumers as part of a contest for a better recommendation tool, it only took a few weeks for researchers at the University of Texas at Austin to show how easily the data could be de-anonymized.

“An adversary who knows only a little bit about an individual subscriber can easily identify this subscriber’s record in the dataset,” they wrote.

If Netflix was chagrined by this development, you’d never know it. Not only did the company continue with the contest, but proudly declared it intends to hold a second one — for which it will release even more information than last time. For the new contest, Netflix will make available customers’ gender, ages, ZIP codes and previously rented movies in hopes of gleaning insight into users’ tastes.

Stunned privacy experts wasted no time bashing the plan. University of Colorado law professor Paul Ohm implored Netflix to reverse course. “Researchers have known for more than a decade that gender plus ZIP code plus birthdate uniquely identifies a significant percentage of Americans,” Ohm wrote. Even without birthdates, he said, interested researchers will be able to figure out many people’s identities.

Attorney Jay Edelson predicted that Netflix would face a class-action lawsuit if it went through with its plans.

As it turns out, Edelson’s law firm, KamberEdelson, along with Joseph Malley of Dallas and other lawyers, decided not to wait for Netflix to start the contest. This week, they filed suit on behalf of four Netflix consumers, arguing that releasing the information would violate the federal Video Protection Privacy Act — a 21-year-old law, passed after a newspaper obtained the movie rental records of Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork — that bans movie rental stores from revealing personally identifiable information about consumers.

The lawsuit, filed in federal district court in San Jose, Calif., seeks damages on behalf of people whose information was released by Netflix in the past.

The consumers also seek an order prohibiting Netflix from making any information available about their video records. One of the four, who sued under the pseudonym Jane Doe, alleges that she is a closeted lesbian who would be harmed if people figured out that she had rented a number of “gay-themed” movies from Netflix. “Plaintiff Doe does not want her movie selection or rating transactions to be included in any public disclosure of data for purposes such as the Netflix contest, regardless of any attempts by Netflix to anonymize or perturb the data,” the lawsuit alleges.

A Netflix spokesperson declined to comment on the lawsuit.”

Update: Wired Magazine is reporting that a closeted lesbian mom is suing Netflix for invasion of privacy after being outed as part of the Netflix promotion.

I used to be deep in the promotion business – both as a senior manager at a major market radio station and later as the founder CEO of an experiential and promotional marketing company. Based on that experience, I am aghast that Netflix’s lawyers signed off on this!

What are your thoughts?  What if you are one of the Netflix customers whose info is published?


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