Ah, Google Buzz. At last we see the chinks in your armor (well, aside from the fact that it looks a little useless)—the opt-out feature appears to automatically publish your contact list, which is compiled from the people you email and chat with the most.
As if it wasn’t annoying enough to be told you have dozens of new “Buzz” only to check and see the same message four times and twenty-odd retweets of an acquaintance’s old tweet, or to have to try to separate your work and your personal news.
Now, there are a few warnings: the standard light-gray-on-white text that states: “Your profile includes your name, photo, people you follow, and people who follow you.” Although it tells you you’re creating a public profile, it doesn’t clarify how they assign you people to follow. On a later page in the process, Buzz does specify that “You’re already set up to follow the people you email and chat with the most.”
As the Business Insider says:
A Google spokesperson tells us the followers lists are public by default so that people can quickly find new people to follow. Obviously, that’s a good thing for Google, which is hoping to get as many people using Google Buzz as soon as possible. It’s also meant to be helpful for users. And for those who are unconcerned with telling the world who they email most, it is. But for everyone else, it’s terrible.
It gets to a deeper problem with Google Buzz: It’s built on email, which is a very different Internet application than a social network.
I absolutely agree. Email is a whole different level of privacy than a social network—even with passwords and walled gardens, social networks are public, and far more public than email.
TBI has a solution: “We believe Google could and should simply make this feature ‘opt-in’ so that people know what they’re doing.” Agreed. Although Google has long been an opt-out only kind of guy, one of these days they’re going to have that turn around and hurt them. You know, kind of like what’s happened with Facebook . . . repeatedly.
Want to opt out of sharing your list? Read Write Web tells how in five easy steps:
- Sign into your Google account via Gmail (or any other Google service)
- Go to your Google profile here: http://google.com/profiles/me
- Click the link at the top-right of the screen that reads “Edit Profile”
- Here, you’ll see a checkbox that reads “Display the list of people I’m following and people following me.” To make this info private, just uncheck that box.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Save changes” button
Or you could opt out of Buzz entirely. After all, who’s really found it useful so far? (We can turn it off, can’t we, Google?)
What do you think? Will Google learn their lesson? Or are they already too big to beat down?