Google Plus, Google’s recently announced social network, is currently being tested by select users as a beta project. In what is common with web-based software, the beta version of the platform was released to testers with limited features as well as basic security and privacy features. According to various reports online, a significant flaw in the privacy settings has already been identified.
Content Exposed Through Resharing
Like most of the popular social networks these days, Google Plus is designed to allow users to share and reshare content. The platform is equipped with a unique component known as Circles, a feature that allows users to separate their friends by criteria such as relatives, co-workers, and classmates. Unfortunately, all the content you share with your circle can be shared with the people in their circle, essentially meaning that your status updates, photos, videos, and other content can be exposed to complete strangers.
Since the beta version apparently does not have an option that allows you to restrict who reshares your content with others, those passing along sensitive information could possibly have concerns over this feature. However, Google has come up with a quick fix to counter the early critics. A BusinessInsider article showed that the company included a dialog box explaining to the user that the original post was shared with an exclusive audience and warning them to share the content responsibly. While disabling the reshare feature may have been a better move in the eyes of some observers, whether or not this approach will suffice when the project goes live is something that remains to be seen.
Big Deal or No Big Deal?
The Google Plus flaw was reportedly first spotted by Tim Bradshaw, journalist and Digital Media Correspondent for London’s Financial Times. According to Bradshaw, this flaw is no where near as serious as the hole that resulted in Google having to shell out a hefty sum to settle a legal dispute over the Buzz privacy fiasco. The Plus issue certainly does not seem to be a big deal at this point when considering that the product is being tested and such flaws can easily be addressed before the official launch. Additionally, while Google should certainly be held responsible for making sure users know how the platform works, it is ultimately up to the user to know just how public social sharing can be. Regardless of what mechanisms are in place, anything you share online can technically be shared with others.
Google has been trying to make a huge splash in the social space for some time, and may finally succeed with Plus. Due to its less than stellar track record, all eyes will certainly be on the internet powerhouse every step of the way. There does not appear to be any major privacy concerns in the early goings, but hopefully for Google’s sake this is not a sign indicative of the search giant getting in the way of its own success once again.