Google touted its 176 million Gmail users as a key advantage in its latest attempt to break into the red-hot social networking market, dominated by the likes of Facebook and Twitter. But email may turn out to be Google’s Achilles heel.
Less than four days after introducing Google Buzz, a social networking service that is built-in to Gmail, the company is already moving to address a growing privacy backlash.
At issue is the network of contacts that Buzz automatically creates for new users based on their existing email contacts, saving people the laborious chore of manually building a social graph from scratch.
The problem is that Google’s ready-made social network is composed of people’s frequent email contacts – which are not necessarily the folks you want to receive regular status updates and random musings from (e.g. your landlord).
But the bigger problem – as many blogs and online publications have pointed out in recent days – is that people’s email contacts are in inherently private and the mere fact of making them publicly accessible can be dangerous.