How 'Privacy' Killed Google Reader

The death of the RSS reader may be due to the firm's growing sensitivity to privacy lawsuits.

When Google explained that it was shutting down its beloved news hub, Reader, it offered a couple of reasons for the decision: Not enough people were using it, and the company wanted to focus on a smaller set of more profitable enterprises.

But the death of Google Reader may also have been a casualty of the firm's growing sensitivity to privacy lawsuits. Via AllThingsD:

That means every team needs to have people dedicated to dealing with these compliance and privacy issues — lawyers, policy experts, etc. Google didn’t even have a product manager or full-time engineer responsible for Reader when it was killed, so the company didn’t want to add in the additional infrastructure and staff, the sources said.

In other words, Reader had to die so that your privacy might live.

This is a bitter message for skeptical Reader diehards to accept. Google's own commitment to user privacy tied the company's hands? The irony is too rich. Reader is perhaps among the least intrusive of all of Google's data-hungry Web products. It's certainly no Google Buzz, the company's Twitter-like service that by default revealed a person's most-messaged contacts without their consent. And as The Verge points out, it's no Wi-Fi snooping scandal, which earned Google a $7 million fine. Google services are habitually coming under attack on privacy grounds, but the idea that Reader should suddenly count itself among them seems improbable.

The responsibility for ending Google Reader still lies with the business team that decided it didn't "want" to bring the product into compliance with its new privacy standards — not the standards themselves, admirable as they are in their own right.