Ex-Googler Falls Prey to Wonderful Privacy Flaw of Google Buzz

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This is a fun story.

Andrew McLaughlin, formerly Google’s top lobbyist and currently the
deputy CTO in the White House, where he advises President Barack Obama
on Internet policy, apparently was aghast to find his contacts exposed
by Google

Buzz is the social Web services that leverage Gmail users’ contacts. By
default, Buzz was built to expose users’ contacts on their Google

This didn’t sit
well with many people
. Privacy group EPIC
. A class-action
lawsuit was filed

The FTC is
looking into
the matter. Google
made many changes
to assuage users concerned about their privacy.
But some damage had already been done.

Take McLaughlin’s case
from Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government blog

McLaughlin’s Buzz profile, which has since been made private after he
appealed for help from Google and others on Buzz, includes almost 30
Googlers, including product managers, Google senior lobbyists and
lawyers. The blog noted:

So, is he now shaping such policy by conferring outside
of official White House e-mail channels with the scads of Google
lobbyists in his Gmail list? Who’s to say. After all, it’s not
necessarily unreasonable for McLaughlin to be communicating with his
former friends and colleagues at Google.

It’s not at all unreasonable, and the first part of the paragraph is
exactly the type of stuff that generates ill-founded rumor and
conjecture. The surprise about whom McLaughlin has on this list is, I
hope, a feint to create drama where none exists, or sheer stupidity.

Let me get this straight. A guy works for a company for some years,
makes friends and colleagues, and people expect him to drop those
friends and contacts that he’s cultivated during his employment when he
leaves? All for the sake of the appearance of keeping in propriety?

Horse pucky, as a former colleague of mine is fond of saying. While in a
perfect world there would be an absence of bias from within the
government on down to who gets favored at the local best-in-show event
in Podunkville, USA, we’re not in a perfect world.

Conflict of interests abound. Trying to quash them is like putting the
proverbial finger in the dyke or dam.

The blog drills its point home deeper toward the end:

But it does raise questions when Google’s former top
lobbyist, now serving in the executive office of the president, is using
his former employer’s private email and social networking tools (Gmail
and Buzz) to communicate privately with bunches of Google lobbyists and
lawyers. What are they communicating privately about? Perhaps "shaping
policy that affects Google’s rivals"?

Again, that line is a cheap shot. Unless there is evidence of
impropriety, some malfeasance or scheming between McLaughlin and
Googlers, this is National Enquirer- caliber rumor-mongering.

Also, must McLaughlin switch all of his Google data to Microsoft, Yahoo
or some other e-mail provider because he used to work at Google and now
discusses Web policy? I submit, no.

Nonetheless, this batch of horse pucky worked.

Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson rushed to call conspiracy, requesting
copies of e-mail between McLaughlin and Google under the Freedom of
Information Act. Simpson

The appointment was troubling when it was announced, but
signs that McLaughlin is continuing a cozy relationship with his former
employer while serving in the top White House Internet policy job are
even more disconcerting. The public has a right to see exactly what sort
of messages have been exchanged with his former employer and

I submit that the public doesn’t need to know. Who cares?

Google isn’t getting special treatment from the Obama administration. If
anything, it’s getting quietly railed.

The DOJ opposed Google Book Search. The FTC is looking into the very app
that caused this issue — Buzz — and is investigating whether or not
the $750 million AdMob bid is a good idea.

In fact, I expect Google to get hammered by an antitrust suit any day
now. The perception has turned. People view Google as a more
consumer-friendly version of Microsoft. That’s unfortunate, but that’s
the way it goes in business, which is cyclical.

Get too big and you court intercession from those more powerful and
presuming to be more important than you. That would be Big Brother.

Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdoghttps://consumerwatchdog.org
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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