Posted February 11, 2010 2:50 pm by with 18 comments

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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:

  1. Sign into your Google account via Gmail (or any other Google service)
  2. Go to your Google profile here:
  3. Click the link at the top-right of the screen that reads “Edit Profile”
  4. 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.
  5. 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?

  • Isn’t Google showing some evil characteristics…
    .-= Kyle Morgan´s last blog ..Is The American Dream Attainable? Evidence From Recent Survey =-.

  • kayjo edwards

    You can turn off Buzz. At the very bottom of your gmail page (in very small print) is a line that starts with Gmail view. One of the options there is “turn on/off buzz”

    • Petal

      Thank you Kayjo.

  • Why is this an issue? Follow, follower list are public on twitter, and facebook, and sometimes myspace……Whats the issue here?

    • As it says in the article, this is an issue because it’s based on the people you chat and email with frequently. The following/follower lists are public by default on social networks—there’s an entirely different level of publicity in a social network vs. email. To be pushed into a program that publishes who you email and chat with most frequently without your consent is not okay and not analogous.

      • Yeah, you are right, there are many problems with buzz, this just being one of them. My biggest issue is all the irrelevant messages I now receive in my inbox. I suppose I hadn’t thought about the email aspect of it….I can see why this would be an issue with folks that email people that they don’t want public. Some folks combine their professional and personal email. I hadn’t thought of that because i rarely use my gmail account for personal emails.

        • That makes sense. (A related problem for those of us using one address for personal and professional email: now we’ve got personal and professional friends following our buzz. How do we talk to both audiences?)

          I think I’ve got a reasonably high privacy level, so my lists should be okay (but I’ve always been annoyed with Google calling anybody I emailed my “friend” and sticking them in my chat). The irrelevance is a major annoyance, too.

  • Paul McIntosh – pmctosh

    Well, I’ve already opted out. Though yes these lists are public to an extent, my personal email and contact list is not. If I wanted that public along with who I exchange emails with I would make it public.
    So thanks but no thanks googs.

    I can see the abuse of this one coming now. Give it another 24 hrs before the exploits come to the surface.

  • Mark

    Make sure you turn off your the feeds in your Google profile if you really want to shut off Buzz. For example, it you added a Twitter feed to your Google profile, because of Buzz people that look at your profile will see your twitter messages (or blog entries, reader ,etc)

    Shutting off buzz in Gmail keeps you from seeing it, but if you turned it on and have followers or are following people your profile will be public and viewable more so than ever before (besides a Google search).

    I followed the advice of the article and also removed my feeds from my profile. I removed Buzz from my gmail page. So I think I have neutered Buzz. I don’t know if I can completely kill it.

    • Good tip. Turning it on/off seemed a little too easy, coming from Google 😉 .

  • Dave

    “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?)”

    Well said. It’s been up for almost two days already and it’s not as popular as Facebook yet. It’s obviously going nowhere.

  • The option to not share my list does not exist for my profile =) so I just disabled buzz all together.

    • I think if you don’t have the second box checked, the third won’t appear. (It’s actually not on mine either; apparently I removed myself from search listings a while back.)

  • So what happens when buzz is rolled out to Google Apps e-mail. Not sure many companies using that service would like their e-mail ‘lists’ exposed. If that’s not an opt in only there will be plenty of Buzz around Google and none of it will be good.
    .-= Frank Reed´s last blog ..Google’s Super Bowl Ad Not the End of Civilization =-.

  • I think you fan out of molehill at the moment. You can easily change the list of people you follow after registering. And if you really don’t want to show smth, you can just click unfollow or smth like that…

  • Have they already changed this? I couldn’t find anything about followers in my profile.
    .-= Sherri Stockman´s last blog ..Morgan Mineral Lip Gloss =-.

  • This sort of thing was inevitable as soon as Google profiles came in. They want to connect all the dots, market in every possible channel, use every possible method for working out your interests and what you buy. The answer is simple – don’t have a Google profile and don’t use Gmail.