Feb 12 2010

Google Buzz and privacy settings

Google knows heaps about me. How come? Because I use my Google account generously.

Not only have I a Google mail account, I upload photos to Picasa, I monitor news and follow blogs in Google Reader, I use Google’s calendar and I use Google Analytics to track usage of my websites as well as Google Adwords to serve up advertising.

I have a Google blogspot and I’ve told Google about my accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn.

So Google serves me advertising that it thinks I want to see. Simply by monitoring my behaviour, Google is building up a picture of my behaviour and tastes. It’s not personal mind, or is it?

Google has provided a dashboard where you can find out which of its web services it is using to ‘watch’ you.

I recommend watching the third installment of BBC 2’s The Virtual Revolution, in which Dr Aleks Krotowski looks at how Google’s data collection impacts on our notions of privacy and personal space. It airs on BBC 2 on Saturday 13th February 2010 and will be available on iPlayer for the following week.

Enter Google Buzz. This service suddenly appeared as an extra item in my Google mail account yesterday morning and I immediately joined the throng. It strikes me at first glance as a cross between Google Wave and Google Reader. There was a flurry of activity, I followed a few people, and then the hype seemed to die down. It would spell the end of FriendFeed assuming that everyone who used FriendFeed had a Google account.

Imagine my horror when I saw a tweet later in the day saying that Buzz had a huge privacy flaw. By default Buzz lists your followers as the people you email or chat with most on Google Mail and Google Chat.

In my case, that wasn’t too bad because I use my Google Mail account to receive rather than send email, and I never use Chat. But it might impact on you.

Here’s the article that gives the low-down. Be sure to follow this slideshow link to learn how to edit your Google Profile accordingly.

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