I use Google Reader as my RSS feed reader, though I will certainly be careful to not use its latest feature, which allows users to mark particular things as articles to share with each and every person on your contact list, regardless of who that person is– friend, work colleague, or, in my case, one of the hundreds of people who I email about something having to do with our writing program. As this user said, quoted in this article, “Google Reader Making More Enemies Than Friends,” “What genius at Google thought that this same list, consisting of hundreds of people from all sorts of parts of my life, would be the same list I’d want to share my Reader entries with?”
The article goes on to make the connection with the problems Facebook had with Beacon (which I never used personally but which also shared a bit too much), and for me, both of these things suggest two closely related things. First, contrary to a lot of concerns from various privacy folks, many– maybe most– users of services like Google Reader and Facebook are savvy enough to realize that there are things that they don’t want to share with just everyone. I think about this with Facebook frequently enough, and certainly with my own blogging habits. And second, there is a line out there– fuzzy though it may be— which, if crossed, users will raise flags and backlash against companies like Google and Facebook. So far, these providers have been willing to respond to those customer needs, too.