Did Euro data privacy regs help kill Google Reader?

Many loyal users (including me) were beyond glum when Google decided to close down its venerable RSS reader, effective yesterday. Maxim Lott at Fox News has this report:

“You would think that it would take little effort to maintain the site, but compliance keeps the cost up,” the source [“familiar with the matter”] told FoxNews.com.

He gave one example of a costly regulation.

“In Europe they’ve had a regulation for years where basically, if someone requests that all their data on a site be deleted, the company must comply. Reader wasn’t compliant with that. So it comes down to, do you spend a lot more resources making the service compliant, or working on something new?”…

Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic declined to comment about whether regulatory costs played a role in Reader’s demise.


  • On the one hand, boohoo regulation.

    On the other hand…really? It’s *really* impossible to delete all the data about a user? You *really* design your service such that it puts user-identifiable information in places where you can’t get to it?

  • Google is in project killing spree last few years. They claimed they want to become more focused and are killing pretty much everything not big enough.

    Even if the story would be true and the regulation played role in killing reader, I doubt that adding delete would by such a big deal for them, if they would want it.

  • Frankly, I think adding “delete” would be a huge undertaking for Google Reader.

    Hypothetically, let’s say that Walter Olson tells Google that he doesn’t want to appear on Google Reader. (And remember, regulations in Europe often state that mere linking to an article is the same as publishing it.)

    Assume Density Duck writes a blog post or article on Mr. Olson attending a Red Cross gala. The RSS feed will give a summary of the article which if Olson is the focus or is in the “lead,” may trip the filter on Google Reader. That’s the easy one.

    But what if Density Duck writes a post or article that mentions Olson in a much smaller role. For example, Duck writes about a Red Cross gala in Washington DC and amongst 3o or so names that he saw at the gala is Walter Olson. Now you are asking Google Reader to not only read the RSS feed from the article, but scan the entire article and compare every name to the “delete” database because of the “linking” regulation. That is a huge resource hog.

    Finally, assume that Density Duck’s article talks about the Red Cross gala, but doesn’t mention Walter Olson. However, aaaa writes a comment saying that he went to the gala and saw Walter Olson. Now if the RSS feed links to the article and the comment is there, GR is on the hook as well.

    I can truly see this being a huge computer and manpower issue to try and comply with the ever expanding Euro regulations. While I am not willing to state the regulations were the only reason GR shut down, I believe the regulations may have contributed to the decision.

  • It’s quite fashionable to blame EU regulations for everything, okay some are quite wacky.

    But as certain federal agencies blatantly disregard every privacy concern worldwide it is quite glum for Google to cite pesky privacy laws for being unable to comply with them and being forced to shut down an “unproftiable” service.

  • Bah, that’s idiotic.
    Google Reader was a *feed aggregator*. No different than Feedly and others of the same kind. This means that it served the content that *the sites themselves* wanted to be served.
    It wasn’t anything like Google News, for example.

    Google just kills its projects when they’re not big enough. That being said, Reader was maybe the biggest one Google killed, and caused some backlash.
    Fortunately, the guys at Feedly are doing a great job to improve their aggregator for the millions of new users.

  • […] Did Euro data privacy regs help kill Google Reader? Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic declined to comment about whether regulatory costs played a role in Reader’s demise. […]