Privacy concerns over Google Buzz, G-Mail, Chat & Reader
ETA Feb 14: UPDATE ON THE GOOGLE BUZZ SITUATION:
Google have listened to the complaints they were getting and changed a lot of the options for Buzz. As they said, "It's been an exciting and challenging week for the Buzz team. [...] We quickly realized that we didn't get everything quite right." ( ::wide-eyed look:: No, really? /sarcasm.)
I'm not sure yet if Google will fix all of the privacy issues and other problems with Buzz -- Google doesn't seem to be doing anything to prevent spammers harvesting your email address from your Buzz user ID, for example; I'm also not sure if it will fix the problems with Buzz displaying email names/Profile names you want to keep private, especially since you still seem to have very little control over what other people do with your information on their Buzz profiles.
Google has fixed the issues with Buzz auto-following people for you -- you choose who you follow now. They've also made it easier to make your profile private; made it easier to manage Buzz options from its own section in Gmail settings; and stopped auto-linking your Picasa, Reader, etc. to Buzz. Initial set-up for Buzz will be slower and a bit more complicated now, but I think that's a good thing.
Link here: http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/n
I've already noticed three problems from the options in the screencaps at the link above:
1. Google are rolling out the added Buzz options in Settings gradually, because I still don't have that option in my Settings (as of Feb 14).
2. If you want to disable Buzz completely, Google will delete your Profile for you -- but what if you want to keep your Google Profile? What if you use it for other things?
3. When I'm selecting who to follow, I would still see my contacts' emails linked to their names (taken from their Google profiles, I assume), so unless everyone on my contacts list has corrected their Google Profile to hide their real names, I could still see someone's real name associated with their fannish email address. This is still creepy! ::shudders:: /ETA
Back to original post -- but please remember that some of this has changed now that Google have started to fix some of the problems with Buzz!
Link to Business Insider's article, WARNING: Google Buzz Has A Huge Privacy Flaw, here: http://www.businessinsider.com/warn
Google has set up its new social networking tool, Buzz, to be automatically opt-out for all users. If you use GMail or GChat they set Buzz up for you automatically -- you have to opt-out if you don't want it. (ETA Feb 14: This has now changed.)
Not a problem so far, really, except that they also set up lists of followers for you automatically, from your Gmail & chat contacts, and those people can then see your information. They can also access Reader stuff, if you use Reader. (ETA Feb 14: This has now changed.)
Those lists are public on your (also public by default) profile page, users and followers are hard to block from following you because it lacks any granular privacy controls, and also -- the big problem for a lot of people -- if you signed up for Gmail using your real name, it may well make that user name public on your profiles and lists, thus linking fannish identities with off-line identities. (ETA Feb 14: These problems have now been made more obvious when you sign up, but haven't really been fixed yet.)
NOTE: Google have had some really bad publicity about this, and are already backtracking, so this is all subject to change without notice. As far as I know, although they may have set up profile automatically for some people at first, they've already stopped doing that. Now you have to sign in and set up a profile for Buzz, but the privacy settings are still not public enough -- or granular enough -- for my tastes. (See ETA at top of this post -- Google are making even more changes.)
I posted about it on DW & cross-posted to my other journals, if you want more details, and links to other bloggers. Links here:
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