Thursday, February 11, 2010

Google Buzz Overtakes Facebook in Race to Bottom of Privacy Barrel

Google Buzz launched this week with default privacy settings that publicly disclose a user's most frequent chat and e-mail partners.  If that wasn't bad enough, they buried opt-out settings so deeply that it takes an 11 step tutorial to find your way through the counter-intuitive maze of links leading to the required pages. You'd think the company that pioneered simple UI design could do better if they wanted to.

Another puzzling aspect of their privacy policy is the disconnect between the language on the Buzz for mobile acceptance page and the actual Terms of Service.

Before using the mobile version, you must "agree that Google will use your location when you use Buzz." But the actual ToS stipulates, "You can also choose to exclude your location from all of your posts."

So which is it?

It seems to me that Google is following the lead of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who wrote in an open letter, "We've worked hard to build controls that we think will be better for you". I guess from their point of view, what's best for us is full disclosure of all personal information.

I don't believe that Google and Facebook are taking this stance out of pure self-interest. Instead, I think they equate "what's good for the network" with "what's good for the customer." And if a few individuals have information disclosed that they'd rather not share, well, that's the price we pay for the wondrous benefits of data-mined utopia, right? Right?


Lalo Telling said...

I have two Gmail accounts, both pseudonymous, and I am so opting out of Buzz on both of them, I'm not even doing the initial setup for either.

Fortunately for me, I have a bare-minimum technology cell phone. It's a telephone; I make calls with it, and damned few of those. Period. So I am no more personally affected by "location disclosure" through Buzz Mobile than I was by Facebook, which I avoided like the plague it turned out to be.

That doesn't make me any less angry at the general erosion of privacy in favor of The Bottom Line.

sororNishi said...

Yes, privacy is apparently a thing of the past. Excellent tool for stalkers tho...they can REALLY find you in RL.
Just see you once in SL and next thing they can be standing next to you.

Sends a chill ...doesn't it.

Botgirl Questi said...

I don't really have any personal issues at the moment, since my associated identities and corresponding physical location is no secret. But from a public policy point of view, I think we really need some legislation that puts individuals in control of their online privacy in the way that medical data is protected.