Google tries to clarify "public"

Google needs to clarify its privacy policy around Google Apps, and it's as easy as defining one word: public.

Google has now unequivocally stated that "public" means "public," and hence users of Google Apps need not worry, as CNET reports. The problem, as ever, is that the term is still not defined properly, whatever Google's good intentions (and I genuinely believe that they are good).

This is super easily solved by Google:

David Vaile, executive director at the Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre at the University of New South Wales, Australia, said Google should give a clear and explicit definition of what is "public," and also offer an interface that lets users control the attribute on a page-by-page basis and reminds them of this status.

Highlighting potential for the term "public" to be contested, Vaile said it can be construed in different ways, depending on the legal context. For example, in a defamation case, for it to be deemed "public," only one other person needs to hear of it or become aware of it. "It doesn't necessarily need to be in a public place, but it is beyond you and the subject you were referring to."

However, Vaile said Google should be credited for its attempt to set out the terms and conditions in plain English.

As do I. The stakes are high enough here, however, that I think Google needs to define public (or do these technical measures that are suggested above) and be done with it. It's not a trivial issue.

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About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.

     

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