Google going all Facebook

I've expected Facebook to continually violate people's privacy expectations, to the point that the only private things I post on Facebook anymore are the kids' names and photos from when I'm traveling.  Nothing more private than that.

Google, I trusted a little more. But I'm coming to the realization that it's the Stockholm syndrome. After all, Google has my email (gmail), my photos (Picasa), blog (Blogger), calendar (Calendar) and even searches for directions (Google Maps).  I just have to hope they won't be evil.

I realized that there was something awry when I received an email from a professional contact (someone I meet maybe once a year at conferences).  "Thanks for sending your photos," he emailed, going on to talk about something else.  Photos? I didn't recall sending him any photos.

Example of the email that you would get from Picasa
if anyone in your Gmail contacts list
updates their unlisted Picasa album.  Infuriatingly, the publisher
of the photos can not tell
Picasa to not spam their entire Gmail contact list.
The receivers have to go into their Picasa albums account and tell
Google not to send them these spam emails.
Then a couple of days ago, my email box got flooded with emails about the updates that an ex-colleague had made to her photo album.  This was strange, but I put it down to her mailbox or photo account getting hacked.

Then, today, one of my friends asked when I'd gone to Texas. Turned out that Picasa had sent him a link to my entire album (including photos from a Texas camping trip a couple of years ago) because I happened to upload some recent photos to it.

This is Google trying to be more social and tarnishing their reputation in the process.  The problem is that Google sends you an email about X's new photos if you've ever emailed X from your Gmail account -- and this tends to include casual contacts.  To make matters worse, there is no way to tell Picasa to not send such emails whenever you upload changes (you can only block individuals from "following" you entirely, but that's not the same thing).  Even if the album is unlisted, anybody following you is going to be notified. And, of course, Google subscribes you to such email digests by default. You can, however, turn off receiving such emails.  Go to Picasa's settings and to email notifications and click the box that tells Picasa to not send you email digests of recent Picasa activity by people in your contact list.


  1. Oh, how pesky. It should be obvious to these social networking sites that we have many different social circles -- some concentric, some overlapping, some entirely separate -- and no one wants to share everything with everybody.

  2. My "Starred Photos" is an unlisted album. Not private, but not public either. In fact, I have no public albums. So, this is all quite annoying and quite scary.