Google's entry into the social networking space will face similar privacy challenges as Facebook and other social networking sites. Here are some facts about Buzz privacy for users to keep in mind.
Social networking brings
with it its own set of privacy and security challenges. With Google making its
own foray into the space with the launch of Google Buzz, security experts say
users will have to find the right balance between privacy
Like Facebook, Buzz allows
users to post updates, videos and photos. Buzz will automatically push updates
to Gmail users from fellow users with whom they exchange e-mail and engage in
chat sessions. In addition, Picasa Web public albums, Google Chat status
messages and items shared via Google Reader will appear as posts in Buzz.
"We designed Buzz
to make it easy to connect with other people and have conversations about the
things that interest you," a Google spokesperson said. "That said, we
understand some users may not want
to share their posts
with others, so we've made it easy for users to change
and control their personal settings."
Gmail users can follow
people whose Buzz posts they choose to see, and Buzz recommends posts from
others as well that the user can choose to ignore. Users can opt out of
displaying the full list of people following them and whom they are following.
However, the default
setting is "public," meaning Buzz users will find themselves
initially in the same condition as Facebook
when the social networking site updated its privacy settings two
months ago. In the public setting, posts will be available to all users of
Google Buzz as well as the poster's searchable Google profile. The user's
activity on connected sites such as Picasa Web Albums or Twitter can be shared
in Google Buzz as well.
"That's always the key
point on any social networking site-people have available to them the means to
protect their privacy but often don't," said Augie Ray, an analyst with
"Another area of concern
may be the way Google's mobile app allows people to give permission to
automatically report their location," he said. "That's the sort of 'set it once
then forget it' setting that can catch the casual user unaware."
If a user chooses to view
"nearby" posts, the person's location will be collected by Google.
Location information will also be collected if a user creates a post that
shares his or her location. However, users can also choose to exclude their
location from all mobile posts or on a post-by-post basis.
Just how users will react
to Google's approach
to privacy remains to be seen.
"I think it will find its
niche, and those that enjoy Google's services will be receptive to its
controls," said Sean Sullivan, security adviser for North American
Labs at F-Secure. "I use Google Reader and currently 'share' items with
colleagues. It works very well for this. I don't think it will generate a backlash,
I'll just turn it off like I do many of the other features included in Gmail,
and I'm sure many others will as well."