Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Could Buzz become Facebook for education?

In his blog entry on ZDNet, "A social networking call to arms" Christopher Dawson looked at Google as the potential social networking provider for education and business. He makes some good points. In the past Google has been considered a nemesis of personal privacy for their retention of user search and email data long after the fact. But they have responded to their users concerns by limiting the time data is kept, and when they made the major blunder at the introduction of Buzz were quick to fix the problem. Facebook, on the other hand, is continually expanding what user information is considered public without consulting users or seeming to care about their wishes. Schools have to keep certain data private, and Facebook does not allow that.

There was a time when Facebook might have been useful as a tool for teachers. That time is long past. But a social network run by Google could work. Google does not make change their privacy policy every six months (or less) in an effort to make more of the user data public. And Google has experience providing secure services in the cloud to businesses already. They already have most of the ingredients of a successful social media site if they can find a way to tie them all together. Google Search, Google Reader, Youtube, Blogger and Google's handling of privacy issues are some pieces of the puzzle. All Google needs is a way to package them together that satisfies the privacy and security needs of educational institutions while providing the social experience people want.