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28 December 2007, 15:00

Google Reader inadvertently discloses interests to "friends"

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Google is being criticised in blogs and various internet publications over a new function, introduced into Google Reader in mid December. This allows "friends", listed in the Google Talk address book, to see the RSS feeds a user is monitoring with Google Reader which aren't explicitly marked as private. A company contact in the buddy list may therefore see which feeds a Google Reader user at a competitor company is monitoring. Google Talk contacts might also learn more about a user's leisure interests than they strictly need to know.

This development, for the umpteenth time this year, puts further strain on the credibility of the company's unofficial motto, "Don't be evil". Criticism of Google has increasingly been heard following the submission of an anonymous blogger's IP address to an Israeli court and the merger with DoubleClick. The company is now using its blog to carry out damage limitation. The blog entry explains how to mark specific elements as private so that they are not shared with other users. It also describes how to block access for buddy list contacts granted automatic access to the list of RSS feeds when the new function was introduced. Why Google continues to share all feeds by default (opt out) rather than simply making selected feeds accessible (opt in) remains unclear.


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