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July 1, 2011

Google+’s first privacy loophole found amidst ‘insane demand’

Resharing posts allows other circles to view them

By CBR Staff Writer

The first privacy loophole has been discovered in Google’s latest foray into social networking service – Google+.

A report in the Financial Times has raised a concern about the privacy related to the ‘resharing’ feature in ‘Circles’, which is believed to have been made keeping user privacy in mind.

The report says that ‘resharing’ posts makes them viewable to people in other circles.

Earlier this week, announcing the launch of the new networking service, Google had said in a blog post that the launch is a field trial.

It highlighted: "We’re beginning in Field Trial, so you may find some rough edges, and the project is by invitation only," adding "But online sharing needs a serious re-think, so it’s time we got started. There’s just one more thing — really the only thing: You."

The blog also said, "You and over a billion others trust Google, and we don’t take this lightly. In fact we’ve focused on the user for over a decade: liberating data, working for an open Internet, and respecting people’s freedom to be who they want to be."

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"We realise, however, that Google+ is a different kind of project, requiring a different kind of focus — on you. That’s why we’re giving you more ways to stay private or go public; more meaningful choices around your friends and your data; and more ways to let us know how we’re doing. All across Google."

Google has a low market share in the social networking market. The search engine company has tried twice before to make a foray into the social networking category.

It launched Google Buzz in February 2010 and Orkut social network in 2004. But Buzz had to be withdrawn after privacy complaints from users, while Orkut failed to attract users in the important UK and US markets. After that the company had not released any new social networking service or revamp the existing ones.

This year, in March, Google’s Eric Schmidt admitted that the search engine company had missed out on the social networking opportunity.

He said, "Four years ago, I wrote memos and I did nothing about those…CEOs should take responsibility. I screwed up."

Google+ is the most ambitious move into social networking since co-founder Larry Page took over as chief executive of Google in April.

Meanwhile, Google has withdrawn the invite feature in the social networking service within 48 hours of launch of a limited rollout of the service. The company said that it had to do so in response to the "insane demand" and it may restart the feature in the future.

Google senior vice-president of engineering Vic Gundotra said the company had "shut down invite mechanism" for the Google+ service."

Gundotra added, "Insane demand. We need to do this carefully, and in a controlled way."

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