Schmidt defends Google Buzz despite tweaks aplenty

'No really bad stuff happens', proclaims Mountain View chief


Google boss Eric Schmidt admitted yesterday that the company misjudged public reaction to its decision to automatically load its Twitter, Facebook-like Buzz service into Gmail.

Mountain View has been forced in the past few days to tinker with Buzz several times in an effort to offset an ugly tirade of criticism levelled at the ad broker, which failed to test its product in Google Labs first.

As we noted last week, the company’s aggressive, stealth-like approach with Buzz represented a notable change in how things are done at Google.

In the past the firm has tended to slowly simmer its products, giving Google the chance to monitor feedback and make necessary tweaks before releasing a public beta through its Google Labs channel.

Oddly, the search giant chose a different tack with Buzz only to be roundly whip-lashed into submission by many angry Gmail users who complained that the company had no regard for an individual’s web mail privacy.

At the Mobile World Conference yesterday, Schmidt told phone execs that Google and its many users got caught up in some ill communication over Buzz.

"I would say that we did not understand how to communicate Google Buzz and its privacy. There was a lot of confusion when it came out… [last] Tuesday, and people thought that somehow we were publishing their email addresses and private information, which was not true," he said.

"I think it was our fault that we did not communicate that fact very well, but the important thing is that no really bad stuff happens in the sense that nobody's personal information was disclosed."

Schmidt’s carefully-worded statement suggests that the brouhaha stirred up around Buzz last week was, at best, an overreaction.

However, the fact that Google responded so quickly to the gripes shows not only the depth of feeling against the firm’s strategy, but also highlights - as we noted previously - that the web kingpin’s suck-it-and-see approach represents a change in how Google operates.

And make no mistake, Schmidt doesn’t look set to renege on what some might interpret as the company’s much more aggressive path to world domination of the web. At the same time, some might also question the Google chief’s definition of “personal information”.

At launch, Buzz revealed people’s email addresses and most popular contacts by default, because Google had set the service to automatically opt-in its users. Worse still, the company didn’t prominently display “edit profile” options that would have allowed non-web savvy Gmailers to hide themselves from the creepy Buzz crowd if they wished to do so.

Earlier this week Google wheeled out Buzz product manager Todd Jackson to speak to a few softie news outlets about what went wrong, in an effort to draw a line under the whole sorry affair.

Unsurprisingly, Schmidt’s desire to talk about last week’s Buzz PR disaster in the past tense won’t stop privacy campaigners from griping about the service.

Just yesterday, The Electronic Frontier Foundation complained to US federal regulators about Google’s latest social networking service. The privacy group claimed Buzz violated federal consumer protection law.

Elsewhere, a commissioner at Canada’s privacy office has begun an investigation into Google Buzz.

"We understand the public concern about privacy issues related to Google Buzz," a spokeswoman told CBC news on Tuesday. "Our office is looking at the issue.”

Oh, and there's also a nasty geo location bug doing the rounds that could affect mobile phone users of Google Buzz.

A Google spokesman told The Register late yesterday that company security personnel are in the process of fixing it, and claimed there were no indications the flaw has been exploited - yet. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • NASA's InSight doomed as Mars dust coats solar panels
    The little lander that couldn't (any longer)

    The Martian InSight lander will no longer be able to function within months as dust continues to pile up on its solar panels, starving it of energy, NASA reported on Tuesday.

    Launched from Earth in 2018, the six-metre-wide machine's mission was sent to study the Red Planet below its surface. InSight is armed with a range of instruments, including a robotic arm, seismometer, and a soil temperature sensor. Astronomers figured the data would help them understand how the rocky cores of planets in the Solar System formed and evolved over time.

    "InSight has transformed our understanding of the interiors of rocky planets and set the stage for future missions," Lori Glaze, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division, said in a statement. "We can apply what we've learned about Mars' inner structure to Earth, the Moon, Venus, and even rocky planets in other solar systems."

    Continue reading
  • The ‘substantial contributions’ Intel has promised to boost RISC-V adoption
    With the benefit of maybe revitalizing the x86 giant’s foundry business

    Analysis Here's something that would have seemed outlandish only a few years ago: to help fuel Intel's future growth, the x86 giant has vowed to do what it can to make the open-source RISC-V ISA worthy of widespread adoption.

    In a presentation, an Intel representative shared some details of how the chipmaker plans to contribute to RISC-V as part of its bet that the instruction set architecture will fuel growth for its revitalized contract chip manufacturing business.

    While Intel invested in RISC-V chip designer SiFive in 2018, the semiconductor titan's intentions with RISC-V evolved last year when it revealed that the contract manufacturing business key to its comeback, Intel Foundry Services, would be willing to make chips compatible with x86, Arm, and RISC-V ISAs. The chipmaker then announced in February it joined RISC-V International, the ISA's governing body, and launched a $1 billion innovation fund that will support chip designers, including those making RISC-V components.

    Continue reading
  • FBI warns of North Korean cyberspies posing as foreign IT workers
    Looking for tech talent? Kim Jong-un's friendly freelancers, at your service

    Pay close attention to that resume before offering that work contract.

    The FBI, in a joint advisory with the US government Departments of State and Treasury, has warned that North Korea's cyberspies are posing as non-North-Korean IT workers to bag Western jobs to advance Kim Jong-un's nefarious pursuits.

    In guidance [PDF] issued this week, the Feds warned that these techies often use fake IDs and other documents to pose as non-North-Korean nationals to gain freelance employment in North America, Europe, and east Asia. Additionally, North Korean IT workers may accept foreign contracts and then outsource those projects to non-North-Korean folks.

    Continue reading
  • Google opens the pod doors on Bay View campus
    A futuristic design won't make people want to come back – just ask Apple

    After nearly a decade of planning and five years of construction, Google is cutting the ribbon on its Bay View campus, the first that Google itself designed.

    The Bay View campus in Mountain View – slated to open this week – consists of two office buildings (one of which, Charleston East, is still under construction), 20 acres of open space, a 1,000-person event center and 240 short-term accommodations for Google employees. The search giant said the buildings at Bay View total 1.1 million square feet. For reference, that's less than half the size of Apple's spaceship. 

    The roofs on the two main buildings, which look like pavilions roofed in sails, were designed that way for a purpose: They're a network of 90,000 scale-like solar panels nicknamed "dragonscales" for their layout and shimmer. By scaling the tiles, Google said the design minimises damage from wind, rain and snow, and the sloped pavilion-like roof improves solar capture by adding additional curves in the roof. 

    Continue reading
  • Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module
    Anything that uses proximity-based BLE is vulnerable, claim researchers

    Tesla Model 3 and Y owners, beware: the passive entry feature on your vehicle could potentially be hoodwinked by a relay attack, leading to the theft of the flash motor.

    Discovered and demonstrated by researchers at NCC Group, the technique involves relaying the Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) signals from a smartphone that has been paired with a Tesla back to the vehicle. Far from simply unlocking the door, this hack lets a miscreant start the car and drive away, too.

    Essentially, what happens is this: the paired smartphone should be physically close by the Tesla to unlock it. NCC's technique involves one gadget near the paired phone, and another gadget near the car. The phone-side gadget relays signals from the phone to the car-side gadget, which forwards them to the vehicle to unlock and start it. This shouldn't normally happen because the phone and car are so far apart. The car has a defense mechanism – based on measuring transmission latency to detect that a paired device is too far away – that ideally prevents relayed signals from working, though this can be defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

    Continue reading
  • Google assuring open-source code to secure software supply chains
    Java and Python packages are the first on the list

    Google has a plan — and a new product plus a partnership with developer-focused security shop Snyk — that attempts to make it easier for enterprises to secure their open source software dependencies.

    The new service, announced today at the Google Cloud Security Summit, is called Assured Open Source Software. We're told it will initially focus on some Java and Python packages that Google's own developers prioritize in their workflows. 

    These two programming languages have "particularly high-risk profiles," Google Cloud Cloud VP and GM Sunil Potti said in response to The Register's questions. "Remember Log4j?" Yes, quite vividly.

    Continue reading
  • Rocket Lab is taking NASA's CAPSTONE to the Moon
    Mission to lunar orbit is further than any Photon satellite bus has gone before

    Rocket Lab has taken delivery of NASA's CAPSTONE spacecraft at its New Zealand launch pad ahead of a mission to the Moon.

    It's been quite a journey for CAPSTONE [Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment], which was originally supposed to launch from Rocket Lab's US launchpad at Wallops Island in Virginia.

    The pad, Launch Complex 2, has been completed for a while now. However, delays in certifying Rocket Lab's Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS) pushed the move to Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand.

    Continue reading
  • Alibaba Cloud adds third datacenter in Germany
    More Euro-presence than any other Chinese company, but still nowhere near Google or AWS

    Alibaba has pulled ahead of its Chinese rivals in Europe with the opening of a third datacenter in Germany.

    The company said the Frankfurt datacenter serves cloud computing products to Europe and "adheres to the highest security standards and the strict compliance regulations set out in the Cloud Computing Compliance Controls Catalog (C5) in Germany."

    The addition brings Alibaba Cloud to a network of 84 availability zones in 27 regions worldwide. The company's first European cloud center arrived in Frankfurt in 2016.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022