July 18, 2011, 12:59 pm
Privacy Isn’t Dead. Just Ask Google+.
By NICK BILTON
Some people have a very hard time trusting Facebook.
After dozens of privacy problems over the years, they’ve grown extremely weary of what the company is doing with my personal information. I, for one, rarely use Facebook anymore, beyond a rare comment or “Like.”
For Facebook, these breaches on people’s personal privacy rarely result in any repercussions: the negative press is usually temporary, and users have mostly stayed with the service, saying that there isn’t a viable alternative social network to talk to family and friends.
That is, until now.
Enter Google+, which started last month and has already grown to 10 million users. Rather than focus on new snazzy features — although it does offer several — Google has chosen to learn from its own mistakes, and Facebook’s. Google decided to make privacy the No. 1 feature of its new service.
I learned this lesson accidentally last week. When I signed up for Google+, I quickly posted a link to a New York Times article I wanted to share with people. Several hours later my Google+ link lay dormant. No comments. No +1 clicks. And no resharing the link.
It wasn’t until later that I realized that my post had been made private by default; a Google+ user has to specifically say they want to share a post publicly. By doing this, Google has chosen to opt users out of being public, rather than the standard practice by most other services to automatically opt users in.
This isn’t to say Google is perfect. Last year the company has had its fair share of privacy problems. This happened most recently when it started Google Buzz, a social networking service, which turned into a privacy disaster and resulted in calls in Congress to investigate the company.
With Google’s latest offering, it seems that the company not only learned its lesson about the importance of privacy for consumers online, but also realized that Facebook hasn’t learned about the importance of this issue either.