Google+ is slick and nice. It was so popular that the company had to shut down the invite to the beta version of Google+ after 48 hours of its release. And those hungry for the invite had to buy it on eBay.
However, if you remember the recent scares caused by Facebook's facial recognition feature, the permeation of social media in today's network generation will come to you as a threat, despite its innocent and convenient look.
When Facebook silently rolled out its facial recognition feature, regulators reacted strongly against its violation of customers' privacy.
Is it a good idea for a private company like Facebook to possess biometric data of 500 million users around the globe? Even if Facebook does not abuse the data, there is risk for a third-party to obtain and abuse it.
Imagine someone taking your picture on the street. If they're a 'friend of a friend' - and connected to a Facebooker who leaves their profile rather open - that random stranger who was interested in you can easily find out who you are, who you hang out with, where you go, and what your routine is - basically anything shared online, said Kurt Roemer, chief security strategist at Citrix Systems. Find someone walking down the street and instantly know everything about them? It's creepy.
Facebook is reportedly cooperating with regulators in the European Union, who have raised questions. And now the company is facing a call for an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Critics say Facebook has stacked the deck against consumers, taking away too much control and allowing the company to all these identified and cataloged images to its already staggering collection of personal information.
How about Google+ then? Will we have enough control over our identity and online assets?
In the past, Google has emphasized that its users have control over the personal data collected by the company, allowing them to see their data accumulated by Google through Google Dashboard. However, the massive database of personal information possessed by Google - especially through Gmail - may still creep you out. While Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, claims his policy as to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it, the line may long have crossed. In 2010, Google admitted that it had collected emails, passwords and web addresses from wireless networks, using Google's Street View. Complaints have mounted and more may come - now that Google+ will attempt to take over your online space.
Google named its social platform Google+ because it is designed as an extension of Google, the company's Senior Vice President of Social Vic Gundotra told Mashable.
As part of the initiative to have users think Google+ as Google itself, Google+ notifications appear in almost every Google product.
Once you join Google+, it becomes instantaneously ubiquitous, said Tony Bradley of PCWorld.
Go to Gmail, and there it is--that '+Tony' at the upper left on the menu of links with the other Google services. Go to Documents, there it is again. Go to Photos, and...well, it's there, but now it says '+You' instead of '+Tony'. Go to Calendar, and...well, it's not there--but, you get the idea, stated Bradley. There are benefits to having the social network integrated with other areas of our lives. But, with other social networks, those integrations are a conscious choice made on a case by case basis. With Google+, your entire Google ecosystem is integrated whether you like it or not.
According to Bradley, users do have an option to delete their Google+ content, or even the entire Google Profile. It's just a bit tricky. The text at the top says, If you delete Google+, Google attempts to restore your experience of other Google products to the way it was before you joined Google+, and to permanently delete your Google+ circles, posts, and comments.
Note the key word 'attempts'. It comes up again if you choose to delete your Google Profile instead of just the Google+ content. 'Over the next few days, Google will attempt to delete your Google profile and the features and the data that depend on it,' said Bradley. Sure, the attempt will be made - whether successfully or not.
While some find the ubiquity of Google+ as efficient, others annoying and creepy.
Back in 2010, Schmidt stated regarding Google,
With your permission you give us more information about you, your friends, and we can improve the quality of our searches ... We don't need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you've been. We can more or less guess what you're thinking about.
With Google+, the creepy level too will certainly get a plus.
In order to beat Facebook as a social network, Google does have advantage if it's right on the creepy line, sticking with the users on every Google page.
Given the growing concerns over security and privacy in the wake of recent hacking activities, the search engine giant will surely need to assure its users of a high privacy wall around private emails and private search, so that they do remain private.
That could be the toughest challenge ahead of the expanding Google empire.
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