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3 min read 11 comments

What You Need to Know About Google+ Privacy Terms and Conditions

 

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Amid the praise users and journalists have heaped on to Google+'s circles features, a few fairly significant privacy concerns have arisen around other areas of the site. One concern relates to the photographs that users upload to the Google+. Both Google+ and Picasa are governed by Google's Terms of Service, which involve a nonexclusive license of user data to Google. Whether you're a professional photographer or a casual snapper, you're right to pay attention to the implications of this license. 

Here are the paragraphs you should read:

By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services.

You agree that this license includes a right for Google to make such Content available to other companies, organizations or individuals with whom Google has relationships for the provision of syndicated services, and to use such Content in connection with the provision of those services.

You understand that Google, in performing the required technical steps to provide the Services to our users, may (a) transmit or distribute your Content over various public networks and in various media; and (b) make such changes to your Content as are necessary to conform and adapt that Content to the technical requirements of connecting networks, devices, services or media. You agree that this license shall permit Google to take these actions.

So for professional photographers, it is impossible to grant an exclusive license for the use and display of your work after agreeing to these terms, since they allow Google a license as well. 

For users who don't need to grant exclusive liscenses to their work in order to make a living, there are other privacy concerns as well. One involves the fact that Google's license allows them to "enable, display and promote their services," using your content. Does this mean Google could use pictures from your last birthday party in an upcoming Google+ ad? Well, I'm not so sure. But what's troubling is that the language is so broad that it could be used to grant Google the rights to do many things. At the very least, it's a bit off-putting that, after launching the promising Circles system, the company would create a set of terms so inconsistent with their literature on user privacy. In the interest of full transparency, I would recommend Google either choose more specific language in its user agreements or provide reasonable opt-outs for people. 

Google should know, after their Buzz disaster, that privacy concerns are a potential PR disaster – and not something the company should take lightly.

Source: ZDNet

11 comments

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  • In other word's, in regard to Google, and Picture Upload Ownership Right's by Google, only upload photo's, or info, you would want the public to see. Don't upload Nude Pic's of your Girlfriend, unless you want some Google Employee, admiring your chick. Use your discretion, and be cautiouse.


  • Harshad Jul 11, 2011 Link to comment

    "But, they aren't responsible when something someone shares privately gets reshared out of that original circle."

    If they are not responsible, then it is a privacy concern to me and I won't use their service.

    I am not sure if you are affiliated with Google and hence speaking on their behalf. I hope that they just overlooked the matter. It's a beta after all.

    The analogy with emails is fine if G+ was a completely new service. Let me repeat; my main concern is that photos shared on an existing service which did guarantee privacy, are now suddenly public on the new service. You seem to have acknowledged that in your previous comment, which made me wonder why you brought up the email analogy. Anyway, I rest my case here.


  • I'm not narrowing the discussion, I'm giving an example of my viewpoint, namely that it isn't Google's responsibility to make sure that people don't misuse shared information. Of course, Google is responsible for making your photos shared, when you set them as private though. But, they aren't responsible when something someone shares privately gets reshared out of that original circle.

    The forward button is the same thing as the reshare button. It holds the exact same supposed "privacy issues" because it has the same potential for misuse. As I said, an e-mail that you considered private could be forwarded along, just like a G+ post that you set as limited to just your circles. Again, it isn't Google's responsibility to stop people from being jerks. It's our responsibility to not be jerks.


  • Harshad Jul 11, 2011 Link to comment

    "If I have a picture of myself doing something embarrassing, I'd expect people in my circles to know not to reshare that with my co-workers."

    Why are you narrowing down the discussion to your use-case? There are many reasons why someone might want to keep a photo private. "Embarrassing photos of myself" is not mine.

    "There is a prominent "forward" button on all e-mail systems too."
    Yes, but I am curious to know what bearing it has on the topic at hand.


  • There is a prominent "forward" button on all e-mail systems too. I'm just saying it shouldn't be on technology to keep people from acting like @$$holes, that's society's job. If I have a picture of myself doing something embarrassing, I'd expect people in my circles to know not to reshare that with my co-workers. It shouldn't be on G+ to enforce that.

    That said, I see your point. I'd expect that Google will be adding another privacy option into Picasa soon so it's public, circles, or private. It is annoying that private albums have been made visible to your circles. I hadn't noticed that since I don't have any private albums.


  • Harshad Jul 11, 2011 Link to comment

    "That's a privacy concern with your contacts not knowing etiquette of sharing information."

    How is it wrong etiquette if there is a prominent "reshare" button luring them to click it? People should be allowed to behave like people, and technology should adapt around their behavior rather than the other way around.

    "Like Jeff Jarvis has been saying, it shouldn't be on the tech to enforce limits on sharing, people should just use the same standards as real life. "

    I don't mind that advice for a completely new product. What I don't like is that _existing_ private albums on Picasa are being liberally made public, with no option to prevent that sharing. I have tons of private albums on Picasa and don't want to delete them nor want to reshare them publicly.

    Which is a pity, because otherwise, Google+ is a great product.


  • Harshad, that's not a privacy concern with G+ (or any other social network). That's a privacy concern with your contacts not knowing etiquette of sharing information. Like Jeff Jarvis has been saying, it shouldn't be on the tech to enforce limits on sharing, people should just use the same standards as real life. Because if something goes wrong, the tech will be blamed, not the people who reshared too much.

    When you send an e-mail to someone, they could potentially forward it to everyone, and that would become public. But, they know not to because of simple human etiquette. The same will apply when people see the "limited" tag on a G+ post. (Not to mention the warning that Google put in about resharing a limited post).


  • Harshad Jul 11, 2011 Link to comment

    There is one more privacy concern related to photos.

    If you have a private album in Picasa, G+ forces you to to link these together. At first glance, it appears that the private album in Picasa is privately shared with G+ contacts. But the catch is that, these contacts can easily reshare these photos with their contacts, and eventually it can become public.

    I trust that the people whom I have shared the album don't want to deliberately reshare it. But because of the prominent "reshare" button I fear that they may inadvertently reshare it.


  • Google can't use content any way it wants. It can use content to advertise Google Services, that's it. And, as per the Picasa TOS, Google will discontinue use if you remove the photos. So, if you want to offer someone exclusive use of a photo, you take it off your Picasa, and don't have to worry. Besides which, if you're giving exclusive use of a photo to a client, it would seem logical to take it off your Picasa anyway.

    Flickr has a similar clause in their TOS, which allows Yahoo the use of your public photos to promote Yahoo Groups. Photobucket also has a similar clause that is actually far more troublesome, as it allows Photobucket rights to "copy, print or display publicly available Content outside of the Photobucket Services, including without limitation, via the Site or third party websites or applications (for example, services allowing Users to order prints of Content or t-shirts and similar items containing Content)."


  • I don't see what's misleading about my post.

    The first sentence of the Terms and Conditions is great but the second sentence completely condradicts it. It's great that the user retains the copyrights to everything produced in Google+, but not so great that Google can use that content any way it wants. And, in technical terms, it means photographers can't claim to be offering a client exclusive use of their photos when Google has use of them as well.

    My problem is that Google's language here is too vague and broad. Listen: I don't think it's time to get hysterical about Google+ privacy, and I think the circles function is great. I just think Google either needs to either clarify the words "display, distribute and promote" or give users the chance to opt out.


  • That is really misleading. If you actually read the terms of service, the full thing says:

    11.1 You retain copyright and any other rights you already hold in Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. By submitting, posting or displaying the content you give Google a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license to reproduce, adapt, modify, translate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute any Content which you submit, post or display on or through, the Services. This license is for the sole purpose of enabling Google to display, distribute and promote the Services and may be revoked for certain Services as defined in the Additional Terms of those Services.

    So, our data is still our data. Google Plus can be a haven for content creators (once more proper blogging tools get added), and Google only keeps the right to use our stuff to advertise Google services.

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