After facing criticism and a lawsuit or two involving its privacy policies, Facebook can at least tell its critics that it's better than Google Buzz. By being part of the new Gmail social-networking service unveiled this week by the search giant, users are automatically exposing their Google profile, including their e-mail, to everyone who can do a Google search.
And if that's not bad enough, the default setting allows anyone who connects with you to see your most frequent contacts. You can disable that setting, but then those contacts won't be accessible for sharing photos, links and daily witty updates.
Google Buzz is essentially a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook, with the innovation that it makes use of an existing network. If you have Gmail, you don't have to join Buzz -- you're already on. By finding a small-print link on the bottom of your inbox, you can opt to "turn off Buzz."
Sharon Udasin, 25, a New York-based writer and Gmail user since 2005, took immediately to Buzz, but with some reservations.
"As a young journalist, I like to have every form of online social networking at my fingertips at all times, and am excited to see how Buzz goes," she said. "My concern with Buzz, however, is that there is only an 'on and off' option, rather than a customizable scale of privacy settings."
After much criticism about its privacy settings, Facebook in December allowed users to be more selective about what information can be seen by the general public, within the system, and via Internet searches.
When clicking on Buzz, which now appears directly under the inbox link, Gmail users may find that Buzz users are already following them, and then have the chance to modify their profile. By unchecking a box, users can keep the list of people who are following them, and who they are following private.
Until then, your significant other will be able to see that you're still e-mailing your ex, or your boss may see that you're e-mailing recruiters from another company or an employment agency.
"The Buzz service itself has a lot of nice features; in many ways it's FriendFeed integrated into Gmail," said Interpret Vice President Michael Gartenberg. "The problem is that Google made it very easy for users to opt in to the service without letting them know exactly what they were getting into. Making it harder is that some of the key settings for Buzz aren't in Gmail, but rather associated with your Google profile.'
Gartenberg noted that the ability to have e-mail relationships exposed is a concern to many people. "Added to a detailed location-based mobile service that exposes location not only to friends but everyone around you, you have some issues regarding privacy and default settings that need to be tweaked," said Gartenberg.
"The tight integration to Gmail does mean Google is likely to get many users early on, but at the same time many of those users might not realize exactly what they've signed up for," he added.
Posted: 2010-02-20 @ 6:40am PT
Frankly, MySpace and Facebook are WAY more exploitative and could care less about your privacy interests. At least Google gave the opportunity to listen to their customers. When I was offered the Buzz page, I clicked on "Naw, Just take me to my mail". Somehow, this is NOT mentioned by everyone's broken heart. They simply did not read the intro page when logging into gmail.
Where is the part where the end users take responsibility - or is this another mortgage fiasco?
Posted: 2010-02-19 @ 1:12pm PT
Up until now I have been defending Google's retention of too much information on the grounds that they only used it to enhance the user's experience. Until now...
Posted: 2010-02-18 @ 12:09pm PT
So much for the "Do no evil" part of Google's business model. Just as ALL big businesses they will use your data, identity, and anything else they can get their hands on to make money. That's what businesses do and Google isn't any different just bigger with tendrils that reach much further and deeper than most businesses. What the public needs to do is turn off Buzz and cancel any Gmail accounts that they can afford to be without.
One former Gmail user... Frank Woodman Jr
Posted: 2010-02-17 @ 7:03am PT
I can't believe how stupid Google was. I know it is convenient, and I know they can fix the privacy issue. The problem is that now I see how careless they are, I can't trust them with any of my personal or corporate data.
As of this morning, *all* my Google accounts are gone.
As they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. I'm annoyed with myself for having been duped into thinking Google could be different from any other company.
Posted: 2010-02-15 @ 12:33pm PT
As a Gmail account holder, I'm uncomfortable with this under-the-table approach and disregard to my right to privacy, and have therefore shared this article with everyone in my address book who uses gmail, and encouraged them to turn off Buzz and tell their friends who use Gmail to do the same. Say no to corporate intrusion!
Posted: 2010-02-12 @ 12:04pm PT
Did someone forget that Yahoo! already presented this mashup? It's called "Buzz" and it does what Google buzz claims--without the privacy issues.
Posted: 2010-02-12 @ 9:27am PT
As we all learn to use Buzz and Google gets our feedback, I think it has potential to be a great tool for all. The privacy thing is an easy fix for Google and your profile is already out there if you have a Google Profile now. Already you can Turn off Buzz and you can make the Buzz thread private. I think it may save time and stop the madness of going between Facebook, Twitter and all of the Twitter development apps.