Google Buzz: Don't get stung

Posted by Bel. The time is 4.45pm here in Wellington, NZ.

UPDATE: Forgot to say - if you just want to get rid of Buzz altogether, scroll down all the way down, downtown to Chinatown on your Gmail page, to where there is a bunch of small print. One of those teeny tiny bits of writing at the centre says "turn off buzz". Click on that link and presumably everything will return to normal. You might want to delete your 'posts' beforehand just to be doubly sure.

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So Google Buzz has been thrust upon us, a weird mix of Facebook, Flickr and Twitter that appears right there in your Gmail inbox.

A lot of people are worried about privacy issues, and with good reason it seems. Google has become so all encompassing that it is assuming we are all grateful to receive this social networking gifthorse. Who are we to question another free feature connecting us in ways we never before imagined? All hail the googooplex!

And maybe some are embracing Buzz, busy thinking up new twists on language that are as absurb as the ways that we've had to start talking about Twitter. ("I tweeted him about it" is something that still doesn't sit right with me.)

But right now I would advise caution. Being paranoiac about online privacy is high on my lists of Fun Things To Do. There's a lot racing round at the moment about how everyone you've ever emailed can now see everything you've ever written and so on.

There is an easy way to make sure that your lists of followers and who you are following are not visible to anyone. When you are in Buzz, click on your name to go through to what I guess is your profile page. You should see a link through to your "Google profile" right next to where your name is.

Click on this, which opens in a new window. Editing the settings of your Google profile will affect what goes public in Buzz. I clicked on "edit profile" and then unticked the following options (the last one is the most pertinent):
  • Display my full name so I can be found in search
  • Allow people to contact me (without showing my email address)
  • Display the list of people I'm following and people following me
There was also a big pop-up box about how I needed to set up something so that my profile could be found on Google search. NO THANKS. If someone needs to find me, it's not that hard. Chances are I'll bump into them at a bar or swimming pool or a mate's birthday. I don't like the idea of having to feed my full name and details into a search engine in order for my "friends" to be able to find me via the internet.

This is just what I've come across prodding around this afternoon. By no means extensive! In fact, I have a weird mysterious follower who I don't recognise as a Buzz follower. I have no idea how to get rid of this person. Anyone got any tips on this aspect? The Google help forums are not very, ahh, helpful.

Overall, I'm not sure how successful Buzz can be. It is only available to those with Gmail addresses and really it doesn't seem much better than Facebook, so why would anyone who doesn't already have a Gmail rush over, particularly as initial reaction seems to be that most of us are pretty whelmed...

4 thoughts on “Google Buzz: Don't get stung”

  1. You can block people! It comes up with your list of 'followers' and if you click on the options associated with each person, you can choose to block someone. I had to do it twice, mind, and it still says that number of people are following me, but hey, I'll try again tomorrow.

    Thanks Bel! For this post and also for your help with it yesterday. The advice on editing the profile and the boxes to check was sweet, and yes, I feel very, very whelmed.

  2. Ooh thanks Lotte, I'll have another look at that!

    I'm still using Buzz so maybe I'll update in a month or so, and let everyone know how it pans out... But really, I prefer just using Google Reader and chatting with my friends - I don't Google have don't enough to quite convince us of the point of it!

  3. Oh, I can't bloody figure it out, even with your detailed instructions! Imagine the stalkers out there, I will be easy prey!

  4. My immediate, fundamental and deal-breaking concern was the merging of intensely-private and public... and this was before realising it was "opt in", thereby making this a very real issue.

    Little item here with a real-life demonstration of the danger of this (though the originating blog of the story is now blocked):

    http://techcrunch.com/2010/02/12/google-buzz-privacy/