Friday, February 12, 2010

Google Buzz: A Privacy Concern

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I am a big Google fan and have loved most (if not all) of their products. I don't know what I would do with out Gmail and their Google Documents and Sites have been organizational life-savers for me in my work and personal life. I also employ social networking quite a bit and so when Google came out with Google Buzz yesterday I was intrigued.

Essentially Google Buzz is a paired down version of Facebook, allowing you to post status updates for your followers to see as well as link your activity on a multitude of other sites like Twitter, Picasa, blogs, etc.

At this point I don't see Google Buzz being a Facebook killer but it will definitely take a piece of the Facebook/Twitter market share and get Google a few more ad dollars as they will be able to keep their users on their site for a bit longer.

One concern that I do have is privacy. If you choose to make your Google Buzz profile public, they default your public page to include your username...which is also your Gmail address. For some, who want to keep this address as private as possible, having their email address available for spammers to harvest may not be ideal.

You can change your public profile address to use a numerical sequence but for others trying to find it this may become hard to search for or remember. Not ideal. At this point Google does not have the ability to request your own custom public profile username like Facebook does. It would not surprise me to see Google roll out this feature in the near future.

For now, if you're concerned about the privacy of your Gmail address I recommend either taking your public page down or opting out of Google Buzz.

There are a few more privacy concerns raised with Google Buzz but I don't think many of them matter as much as the privacy of your Gmail address. If you want to read about these check out this article from MSNBC.

For myself, I'm not super concerned about these privacy issues. My email address is out there enough as it is and the advantage of having my public profile searchable and easy to find outweighs the issue. And I'm sure Google will address this fairly soon. I see enough people, used to the detailed privacy controls of Facebook, making enough fuss to cause some changes.

If you want to follow me on Google Buzz feel free to head over to my profile page at www.google.com/profiles/jerrythepunkrat

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