Google just acquired Angstro and hired its co-founder Rohit Khare. Khare will help Google create its new social network.Â Last December, Khare warned about the growing lack of privacy online [excerpt]: “When RockYou can stash 32 million passwords in the clear; when RapLeaf can index 600 million email accounts; and when Intelius can go public by buying 100 million profile pages; then our social networks have traded away our privacy for mere â€œprivacy theater.â€…none of the social networks that weâ€™ve integrated with has an API for reading email addresses â€” but all of them have no problem asking you to â€œInvite your friends!â€Â After all, most social networks remain hypocritical enough to phish passwords to other social networks themselves as soon as they ask you to â€œInvite your friendsâ€ for their own viral growth!
Putting aside the hypocrisy of phishing passwords to scrape those friendsâ€™ email addresses in the first place, the subtler flaw is that social networks are more than happy to search their member database for those addresses to share a list of suggested friends. Thatâ€™s how a Rapleaf could take a mailing list, pretend that those are all friends of theirs, and slowly accumulate a â€œreverse phonebookâ€ that maps emails to social network profiles.”
Given Google’s own problems addressing consumer privacy, we will be watching closely to see if Khare’s concerns are reflected in what “Google Me” (or whatever their social network gets called) really addresses the problem.Â That will need to include enabling users to control the data used for digital marketing and advertising, as far as we’re concerned.