Earlier in the week I stopped using Google Reader for a few days. Every time I started it, I would be reminded of their new sharing features (see the dialog on the left). Then I would close the browser tab. Why?
Google changed the Reader user-contract with no notice. This rankles me. I’ve lost control of my shared items. This is a dramatic change with only the weakest of opt-outs. What’s more, any opt-out is too late. My items have already been shared. What kind of opt-out is that?
Oh, but there are more options. They give us the ability to manage who gets to see our shared items. But only after others have a chance to read them. For example, I can hide my items from my “friends” who are on Google Reader. Other “friends” that start using Google Reader will get to read my shared items immediately. The onus is on me to make sure I actively manage the list.
And the icing on the cake? “Friends” wasn’t a word in use by Google Reader before. Now it has been defined to mean my Google Talk contacts. No fair. This is not analogous to Facebook “friends”. In Facebook, I accepted people as “friends” based on the Facebook definition. Now my Google Talk contacts are my “friends” based on Google’s new definition. This is clearly backwards.
Is Google breaking their terms of service? Almost definitely not, but they are changing a basic part of the user-contract: that user data won’t become more public without user consent. This is a perfect example of the “User-Beware contract“, summed up as: “we’ll change the user contract whenever we feel like it.”
Your email contacts have been shared with your friends
Your emails have been shared with our advertisers
You calendar entries have been shared with your . . .
You get the idea. This may seem like a joke, but frankly I don’t know what is in store for the user contract.
Why is the blogosphere giving Google a free pass on this one?