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Buzz: Privacy

February 12, 2010

So I’ve been playing with Buzz for a couple days now and have a few thoughts.  These thoughts revolved specifically around privacy, or the lack there of.

In my original Buzz post, I acknowledged that there probably would be a few bugs in Buzz in the first couple days.  Turns out, I was right.

1. The recommended followers list:  Gmail generates this list from the people you contact most and automatically sets you up to follow them.  I understand how this would make sense, but when the people you have contact most included bosses or ex’s, it’s annoying to have to take the the time to unfollow them.  This may  be a small gripe, but for some people it can have larger implications.

2. Private/Public post settings: You cannot reset a post’s private or public setting after you have published it.  The default is “public” so a couple of my friend posted publicly, only to find that they could not change the setting.  These public posts go to your Google Profile.  ANYONE can see them (that is the definition of public after all).  Given that Buzz is supposed to facilitate longer conversations and more connections than Facebook or Twitter, I would like to be able to share my musings unrestrained.  But now I have to be afraid of a public paper trail.

3. Edit your Google Profile: You may not even realize you have one, but by signing into Buzz, Google creates a profile.  The default settings show not only the number of people you follow, but also who you follow.  This is less of an issue on Twitter because the accounts are fairly self contained and the users are ‘micro-blogging’ so they want more followers (or else they have made their handles private).  But on Buzz, the service revolves around your email, so your life is more exposed.

Additionally, the profiles have a contact setting that blocks your email address, but allows people to contact you through your profile.  This might not seem like a bad idea, your email is hidden after all, but the morning after I joined Buzz I received an email from someone who found me through my profile — I changed that setting immediately.   Please Google yourself to see what information is available.

4. Reply to shares full email: TechCrunch ran an article this morning about how replying in a comment (using the @ symbol) exposes the person’s email address if they do not have a Buzz account.  In that, many of us have several email address associated with our Gmail accounts, so the person replying may not know which you use for your Buzz account.  By selecting the wrong one, Buzz shows the full email address.  Again, not a huge issue because hopefully people will be careful, but this is an inherent concern for a social media platform centered around email.

So far, I am liking Buzz.  Most of my friends/contacts haven’t really jumped on it yet, but those who have are sharing quality information and have meaningful discussions.  I like how people are using it, versus the use of Twitter or Facebook.  I haven’t started following bigger names like TechCrunch or celebrities like I do on Twitter, but am sticking to my friends at the moment (like Facebook).

How are you using Buzz?  What are your thoughts?  Do you have any other privacy concerns?

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