SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva

News Feed Item

Google+ Shuts Online Predators' Accounts In Response to Consumer Watchdog Letter, But Key Privacy Design Flaw Remains And Must Be Fixed, Public Interest Group Says

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Jan. 9, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Google has cleaned up its social network shutting down some accounts of apparent online predators and eliminating explicit sexual content in apparent response to a complaint from Consumer Watchdog, but the Internet giant's Google+ still has a privacy design flaw that must be fixed, the public interest group said today.

In a letter to CEO Larry Page and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Director John M. Simpson wrote:

"Clearly you can police your network when you want to do so. Consumer Watchdog calls on you to continue such necessary efforts.  However, as explained below you have still failed to address a fundamental design flaw in Google+ that violates users' privacy and Consumer Watchdog urges you to remedy this situation immediately."

Read Consumer Watchdog's letter to Google today here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrgoogle010914.pdf

In December Consumer Watchdog wrote Google complaining that in an apparent quest to grow the user base as rapidly as possible, Google+ had been allowed to become a virtual playground for online predators and explicit sexual content.  A report compiled by a tech industry whistleblower, who had periodically monitored Google's social network since March, was included with the letter.

The whistleblower's report listed and gave links to seven of the most egregiously salacious Google+ accounts as examples including one user who described himself like this:

"Nice daddy or older brother type who loves all things pervy… will share pics but not publicly—been deleted before! 38 now and looking to chat and share pics with any gay guys (or straight or bi) that are into it. Any age is cool with me—who am I to tell you you're too young? Right? Anyhow, I will share more photos as I go and will be on messenger as time allows! Hope to visit with you all soon!"

This user's Circles also included over 100 boys. Many of the images were sexualized or nude images of children -- several who appeared to be under the age of 10 or even toddlers.

When the study was sent, Google+ offered several Communities in which minors (or even adults posing as minors) could openly advertise the trading of sexually explicit images and photographs of each other – a blatant violation of Google's User Content & Conduct Policy.   Google+ had several sexually explicit Communities specifically focused on minors and teens including "Horny Teens," "Horny Teen Chat," "Horny Teen Talk" and more.  In many of these Communities sexually explicit content focused on teens was not only tolerated, but actively encouraged. The community guidelines for the Horny Teens Community for instance read:

"About this community: Welcome to a community created for all the horny teens that need someone else. Explicit content may be present and is recommended and welcome here, [emphasis added] please just enjoy yourselves and let me know if there is anything I can do to make your experience better. ;)"

"Thankfully these accounts have been deleted.  Without a doubt you have the resources to continue to monitor the network and remove inappropriate material," wrote Simpson. "When it was called to your attention, you did so. Now Google must understand that part of the responsibility of the operator of a social network is to proactively monitor its content.  Consumer Watchdog calls on you to continue that necessary effort.  However, doing that is not enough.  You must address a fundamental design flaw in Google+ that compromises users' privacy."

To understand the privacy problem it is necessary to compare Google+ with other social networks such as Facebook, Consumer Watchdog said.  In Facebook for example, a person receiving a request from an individual to be their "friend" must approve that request first.  If the person chooses not to accept, he or she is in no way associated with the individual. 

On Google+ any individual can add a user to his Circles.  If the user does not appreciate the posts he sends to them, they can block the individual's posts.  However, if anyone visits the person's profile and he has opted to display publicly who is in his Circles, the user's name and picture will still appear there.  The user cannot remove himself from the sender's Circles, no matter what, once that person has placed them in their Circles.

"A user is forced to be publicly associated with someone with whom they do not wish to be associated.  For example, both of you are in my Circles and I rather suspect you'd prefer not to be," wrote Simpson to Page and Schmidt. "This is a fundamental privacy flaw and must be fixed.  People must have the right to choose with whom they are associated."

Read Consumer Watchdog's December letter to Google here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrgoogle121713.pdf

You can find a redacted copy of the tech industry whistleblower's report on the Consumer Watchdog website.

Visit Consumer Watchdog's website at www.consumerwatchdog.org

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
The cloud is becoming the de-facto way for enterprises to leverage common infrastructure while innovating and one of the biggest obstacles facing public cloud computing is security. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Aliber, a global marketing executive at Verizon, discussed how the best place for web security is in the cloud. Benefits include: Functions as the first layer of defense Easy operation –CNAME change Implement an integrated solution Best architecture for addressing network-l...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Media announced today that Aruna Ravichandran, VP of Marketing, Application Performance Management and DevOps at CA Technologies, has joined DevOps Journal’s authors. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done. Aruna's inaugural article "Four Essential Cultural Hacks for DevOps Newbies" discusses how to demonstrate the...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...