The Google Buzz Buzz

There's been a lot of talk about Google Buzz over the last week, and not because of how great or revolutionary the service is, but rather because of the shortsighted privacy considerations that went into its initial release.

In short, Google Buzz is a location-based Twitter like service where you follow a group of people and you can see their current locations and tweets. Likewise you have a group of followers who see your last location and tweet.

While cute in theory for some (not my cup of tea), the issue with this was that upon enabling the Buzz features, Google would automatically build you a group of people to follow based on your most recent and most frequent GMail conversations (along with some other services). While this is an easy way for you to get started with Buzz, it also reveals to the world who you correspond with most via GMail.

This could lead to many awkward social situations in cases were people wish to keep who they talk to secret for whatever reason. It seems baffling that Google did not think of this, or if they did they chose to dismiss it as unimportant. For a company that's diverging out into more services than you can imagine and wants to unify all these under a single user profile, privacy and security should be the number one consideration.

This Buzz incident was a huge mistake, and a huge realization for some that Google can't be trusted knowing too much about you. What makes it worse is that they explicitly gave away potentially sensitive information about you without even realizing the consequences. This may raise a lot of doubts in some people's minds. What if their next service somehow shows the world or my 'friends circle' all of my Chrome synchronized bookmarks? Or what if my most recent document titles get exposed? Or what if my GPS location data gets shown to people I don't want it to?

I hope Google will take immediate action and spend more time on use-case scenarios, what-if analysis and user evaluations before jumping in with new services via their old 'it's-a-beta' philosophy. They're getting a bad rep for being an anti-social geek company who doesn't understand the consumer...wait, wasn't that Microsoft?


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