Google+ Privacy: A Closer Look

As Google+ grows in popularity so are concerns over how the site will handle privacy issues. Right now Google+ is in early trial phase and some privacy advocates have given the service high privacy marks compared to Google's earlier social efforts with Buzz and services such as Google Street Views and the ensuing Wi-Spy scandal. Nevertheless, Google+ pundits concerned with privacy have begun to take a more critical look at Google+ and ask how the service will handle security and safeguard user privacy.

Privacy is paramount when it comes to what users ask of social networks. Security and privacy issues have dogged Facebook for quite some time, even resulting in lawsuits over what some see as a cavalier attitude towards privacy. While generally privacy experts have praised Google+ for its work in keeping your data under lock and key if you want it to, the service in its early beta form is certainly not perfect.

Blocking Individuals

One issue surrounds the procedure for blocking individuals. When a user blocks a person, in some circumstances the site fails to remove that person from the blocker's circles. Thus, posts will still appear in that user's front page feed. Additionally, the blocked person would still be able to see posts on Google+ made before he or she was blocked.

Also for a time, users were able to share posts from contacts who have posted something to a limited circle. Google has since corrected this, and the only shareable posts from another user are those marked "public." Obviously, if left uncorrected at launch, this could have been a serious problem for the service.

Google's Ad Business

Some point to Google‘s advertising business as another concern. With social networking, you the user are putting quite a good deal of data about yourself in the hands of the site. For Google, this could be valuable in the future to not only serve you relevant ads on Google+ (if they ever come), or even across the Google family of sites for that matter.

"Google's business is the monetization of personal data," SecurityPost researcher Dominic White told ITWeb recently. "Data that was never online, (hence digitized, searchable and comparable) now is, and 'there's gold in them hills'."

Related Slideshow: 10 Google+ Tips for Beginners

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Photographers' Rights Limited

Photographers may also find themselves on the short end of the Google+ stick due to a few clauses in the service's Terms of Service. Pointed out by online photography magazine Photofocus, the photographers abilities to make money from their photography may be greatly diminished.

That is because by posting images on Google services, the photographer then gives the right to use that image in a royalty-free manner in any method Google desires.

"If I do share images on Google services--under the current terms of service--I will risk genuine harm to my ability to earn income from those images. As a professional, I don't see the reward of using the Google services as being worth more than the risk," blogger Scott Bourne explained.

Regardless of these issues though, you need to tip your hat to Google for making what appears to be an honest effort to get things right when it comes to privacy. Heck, after its Buzz debacle, you think the search giant would have had to have learned something.

For more tech news and commentary, follow Ed on Twitter at @edoswald and on Facebook as well as in Today @ PCWorld .

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