Thursday, February 11, 2010

Buzz Cut

Yesterday, when I loaded gmail, it asked me whether or not I wanted to use their new "Buzz" service. It's their latest attempt to ride the social media wave [1], currently led by facebook and twitter. Not knowing what it was and being impatient to see if I had any new email, I clicked "no". When gmail loaded, I noticed that there was a link to "buzz" on the gmail menu, along with a coloured icon to distinguish it from the other links.

After reading my new emails, I clicked the link hoping to satisfy my curiosity and find out what this new "Buzz" thing was. Find out, I did not. I was brought to what I'm guessing is the main Buzz page, where I discovered that I was already "following" 13 people and 4 people were already "following" me, meaning, I guess, that I can find out what 13 people are doing with Buzz, and 4 people can find out what I'm doing on Buzz, if they're so inclined.

Obviously, I never chose either my followees or my followers. Google did that for me, based solely on the numbers of emails between me and other gmail users (non-gmail users are excluded, apparently). Presumptuous as it is, the fact that Google decided which people I would follow is not so worrisome for me (although it might be for those people, depending on their opinion of me). However, I wasn't comfortable at all knowing that people would have access to information about me, without having given them my permission. I looked around for a way to remove certain followers from my list, people with whom I prefer to share little or no information. I tried, right clicking, left clicking, mousing over, but nothing worked. I suspect, though I'm not sure, that the reason for this is that these people haven't started using Buzz yet, but when they do, they will be following me. So not only did I not choose these future followers, I didn't appear to have any way of preventing them from following me if they ever do get Buzzed.

This is just one privacy issue that I've found regarding people I actually know. Those more knowledgeable than I about privacy on the internet have found their own issues about privacy regarding what information Buzz makes available, by default, to the general public.

Facebook has its own privacy issues. But at least you make the decision to sign up for it yourself, rather than have Google sign you up for it without your asking (or rather, despite your declining the invitation), and you choose your friends rather than Google making them for you. Not only that, but, even though it takes a bit of work to find and wade through facebook's privacy settings, if you're willing to root around on the menus for a few seconds, you can find them. With Buzz, there isn't a link to settings, or even to the help section for that matter.

After a bit of googling (ha), though, I managed to find the Buzz help pages. It turns out that they're embedded into the gmail help pages. I did find instructions for removing or blocking followers, but after some unsuccessful attempts at using those instructions, I decided it was best to ditch Buzz altogether.

The instructions for that are simple, if not obvious. Just look for the "turn off buzz" link in the tiny letters at the bottom of the gmail page. They're effective too. I was successful on my first attempt.

[1] They have something called "Orkut" which is also considered social media, but nobody seems to know about it outside of Iran (Really. I don't remember how I heard about it the first time, but the only people I know of who use Orkut are from Iran, where it is, apparently quite popular. But it's no facebook).

1 comment:

Jonita said...

Now this is the kind of thing that scares me! Even though I try to limit it, I really do have so much personal information wafting out there in cyberspace. I will not be "bzzing" or whatever it is.

Then again, do we REALLY need another social networking site out there? I belong to too many, and it's exhausting. I think that maybe I'll have to simplify a bit this year...