Any of you that use Google Talk, or Hangouts, or whatever they’re calling the chat service on any given day, will probably be aware of Google’s SNAFU earlier in the week. You can read all about it here, or if you want the short version: there was a bug with the chat service so that messages were being sent to random contacts instead of the person you intended to send them to.
For example, I sent a message to my friend Andy saying “I’ve got a stack of FT stretching back to 2006”, and I got a reply from my friend Lorcan saying “That’s a hell of a lot of Financial Times”. I was confused at first, then as each conversation degenerated into a mish-mash of unintelligible responses on all sides, I clocked what was happening. Mildly amusing, but no big deal.
But the denizens of The Internet had a different take on things There were angry posts from here to the moon about how this was “the worst breach of piracy evahhhhhhh” and so on and so forth. The messages presented a variety of “horror stories”, but they could all be summarised into two possible scenarios:
- They were slagging off their friends/co-workers/family/pets to other friends/co-workers/family/pets and the messages got sent to the people they were slagging off.
- They were using Google chat to send trade secrets around the company, and that information got sent to their competitors.
I’ll address each of them in turn.
First up, slagging off friends etc. Can you imagine the horror? You send a message to Connor saying “Dave’s a total ass-clown”, and – OH NO – Dave receives the message! Now Dave is arguing with you and doesn’t want to be your friend anymore! Besides the obvious fact that this is the least important shit I’ve ever even considered, this miscommunication is very easily avoided, buy simply NOT BEING AN ARSEHOLE. If you’re slagging off friends, why are you friends with them? You’re obviously not a very good friend. If you’re slagging off co-workers then you’re just highly unprofessional. Besides, that is what water coolers were invented for. If you’re slagging off family, they probably deserve to hear your beef anyway, so why is it a problem?
Secondly, the trade secrets thing. I have no sympathy for anyone complaining about this. Any company which transmits confidential information unencrypted on a third-party webchat service over which they have no control at all is clearly managed and staffed by utter morons and deserves to fold as soon as possible. It’s not Google’s fault that your competitors got your secrets, it’s your own fault for being so fucking stupid to send them in the first place. People need to start taking responsibility for their actions and proper precautions when it comes to these sorts of thing, and perhaps most importantly, to start THINKING about what they are doing.
In summary then: You were probably only really affected by this bug if you were an idiot or an arsehole. If you were, you deserve everything you got. And if you still have a problem with this “grievous breech [sic] of privacy” on a free-to-use web service, maybe you should demand your money back.