Almost instantly upon debuting yesterday, Google’s new Buzz social-media platform has had privacy-watchers up in arms–and rightly so. Already, Cnet has posted two detailed articles on the matter, calling Google Buzz a privacy nightmare and exploring how hard it is to disable your Buzz account.
Read those articles for a wonderfully detailed look into Google’s amazing social-media misstep. Here’s the problem in a nutshell:
Other major social-media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow you to choose on your own who you’re going to follow and whether strangers can see who you’re following. Google Buzz, however, makes those decision for you, and without your advance consent.
In what seems like an effort to jump-start the Buzz service, entirely without getting your permission first, Google:
- Mines all of your regular Gmail recipients;
- Autofollows them; and
- Shows the world who they are.
That means, right now Google is broadcasting to the world the identities of people in the address books of everyone with a Gmail account–without their advance consent, and I would bet in most instances probably without their knowledge, either. Didn’t know you were already on Buzz? If you’re a Gmail user, your account has been live since yesterday–there’s no opt-in, and as Cnet notes, a very laborious method is required to opt-out.
Here’s how that differs from the right way to do things. Facebook and Twitter also let you mine email contacts, autofollow them, and show the list of who you’re following to the world. But those services give you a choice in advance of each of the those three steps. You can choose all three, a combination, or opt out of them entirely. You’re asked for advanced consent in order to protect your rights to privacy and to have control over your own privacy.
Google Buzz gives you no such advance control whatsoever. And taking away every vestige of social media-standard advance consent sure sounds like an invasion of privacy to me. How about you?
Categories: Social Media
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.
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Late Thursday, Google tweaked the privacy settings of Buzz to make it easier for users to block other from seeing their followers and those whom they’re following. Writing “users” kind of sticks in my fingers, though, since Gmail users still don’t have the choice to opt-in to become Buzz users. Google is still opting Gmail users in and autofollowing their most frequent email recipients without their consent.
That’s still not acceptable. Google needs to absolutely eliminate auto-following without consent. If a Gmail user hasn’t specifically chosen to follow someone in Buzz, Google should not take it upon themselves to connect the two together. Google has no right to remove consent here. That they don’t understand that is the most disappointing part for me.