Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google Buzz privacy concerns overwrought?

I initially recoiled from Buzz, turning it off as soon as I learned how... convinced it was just more useless social media. I imagine that is probably still the case... though the smartphone oriented "mobile buzz" features are interesting, if mildly frightening and creepy. However, after a little experimentation I think the privacy concerns might be a false alarm... either that, or they fixed it since the hue and cry first went up. I tested with a coworker this afternoon, and from what I can tell:
  • You have to have a public profile for anyone to even get to your list of followers
  • If you go to a public profile, and their followers list is also public (the default), you'll be able to see the people with public profiles in their list and the contacts(or maybe just followers?) you both share
  • People you don't know who don't have public profiles definitely won't show up
  • People not logged into a Google account won't see the followers list at all
Now, I may be wrong about the above... and I suppose if anybody clicks on my profile above and sees names and addresses of my very minuscule number of followers, then they should speak up in comments. But assuming I'm right, if you've bothered to create a public Google profile, I'm not really sure why you would complain that people can see it? If the argument is that you don't want people to know who it is you follow, then I guess I agree... it should have defaulted to opt out (though the "ultimate" opt out is just making sure nobody can see your profile in the first place). However, if you are worried that your girlfriend is going to think that you're still talking to that girl you had a fling with 3 years ago... or that your scandalous adultery will be laid bare... it seems the chances are vanishngly small.

I'm still not sure I think Google Buzz is worth anything, but I'm going to give it a shot for a while.