Google responds –a little– to Buzz privacy problems

February 12, 2010

Reports yesterday afternoon that, as GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram put it, Google Listens to Critics and Tweaks Buzz. Just “tweaks,” they are though:  the main change is that it’s easier to turn off the settings that make your contacts appear in your public Google profile.  But these settings should be OFF by default otherwise the risk is simply too great that inexperienced users will expose information they’d rather wasn’t out in the world.

Until now, I’ve felt pretty good about recommending that small businesses and nonprofits use Gmail and other Google products, like Google Apps.   While there were a few security concerns (mainly related to mistakes users themselves might make)  I’m now rethinking this position.  If Google feels free to suddenly take steps that can expose a user’s proprietary information –which is what a contact list is– without even asking the user if this is desirable,  then it becomes questionable whether Google is  the right place for many users.   I’ll keep thinking, but, for the moment, this does start to change the balance of my views about Google.

Update: Jared Newman at PC World agrees that Google’s tweaks in Buzz privacy are Good Start, Not Enough .

And –very usefully– PC World explains how to kill Buzz completely

Because just turning it OFF doesn’t turn it OFF –as I, and no doubt many other people thought.  (Indeed, after two days of having Buzz turned off, I went back to complete the process described in PC World only to discover that I had even more alleged “followers” than before!

Filed under: Google services


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