This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.
Warning: this post discusses intimate partner violence and rape. Please place a trigger warning on links to this post.
If you are currently at risk of violence, here are some links for viewing when you’re on a safer computer: National Network to End Domestic Violence: Internet and Computer Safety [USA], Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence: Internet Safety [USA] and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria: Tip Sheet: Technology Safety Planning [Australia].
Cross-posted to Hoyden About Town.
Abusive relationship and spousal rape survivor and blogger “Harriet Jacobs” at Fugitivus is angry and scared today:
I use my private Gmail account to email my boyfriend and my mother.
There’s a BIG drop-off between them and my other “most frequent” contacts.
You know who my third most frequent contact is?
My abusive ex-husband.
Which is why it’s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I’ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did.
My other most frequent contacts? Other friends of [my ex-husband]’s.
Oh, also, people who email my ANONYMOUS blog account, which gets forwarded to my personal account. They are frequent contacts as well. Most of them, they are nice people. Some of them are probably nice but a little unbalanced and scary. A minority of them ”” but the minority that emails me the most, thus becoming FREQUENT ”” are psychotic men who think I deserve to be raped because I keep a blog about how I do not deserve to be raped, and this apparently causes the Hulk rage.
There’s lots of other comment today on Google’s Buzz automatically assuming that your frequent email contacts should be your Buzz contacts, and making the connection with them public:
- Lifehacker: Stop Google Buzz From Showing the World Your Contacts
- Business Insider: WARNING: Google Buzz Has A Huge Privacy Flaw
- Lifehacker: Google Updates, Explains Buzz Privacy Setup
There will quite possibly be more by the time I’ve finished writing this post, let alone by the time you read it. But having to fight this battle on a site-by-site, service-by-service basis is disgusting. For a number of groups of people, including people who are the targets of a violent obsession among others, information about who they are in contact with, where they live and what they’re interested in has life-threatening implications. For a larger number of people it has non-life-threatening but potentially serious implications for their job, for example, or their continuing loving relationship with their family. Sometimes people are in frequent contact with people who have power over them, and/or who hate them. Why aren’t privacy policies centring that possibility, and working out the implications for the rest of us later?
Note: as I hope you anticipate, attempts to victim-blame along the lines of “people who are very vulnerable shouldn’t use technology unless they 100% understand the current and all possible future privacy implications” not welcome.
Update 13th February: Fugitivus has had a response from Google making it clear that protected items in Reader were not shared despite appearances, and stating some changes that are being made in Reader and Buzz in relation to issues she raised.