Buzz Privacy Brouhaha: How to Keep Your Contacts Private

Last Updated Feb 17, 2010 8:01 AM EST

Fix your Google Buzz privacy settingsAbout 30 seconds after Google launched Buzz, tech bloggers began proclaiming it a Facebook killer and a complete game changer. While one wonders how these seers of social media could possibly have drawn such sweeping conclusions in mere moments, there was a whole other problem with the latest online gizmo. Privacy advocates were simultaneously broadcasting their outrage at the decision to automatically suggest followers and make lists of followers public.
Why is this an issue? Just look at the case of this blogger whose abusive ex-husband was automatically invited to follow her on Buzz for the worst case example. Google is responding to the complaints, but what can you do in the meantime if you want to try out the new technology (and find out if is as epoch-making as the cheerleaders suggest) while maintaining some semblance of privacy? Blog Switched offers a run-down of settings:
By default, the list of people you follow, and the people following you is publicly available. To make matters worse, the default URL on your Google profile is usually your e-mail address with the "@gmail.com" chopped off.

You can change your privacy settings by visiting your Google Profile and clicking "Edit Profile" in the top right-hand corner. At the top of the "About Me" tab you'll find an option reading: "Display the list of people I'm following and people following me." Un-check the box next to it in order to hide those lists from public view. At the bottom of the same tab you'll find the option to change your profile URL to (what we hope is) a random number.

If you want to opt out of Buzz entirely, scroll down to the bottom of your Gmail page, and click on the tiny "turn off Buzz" link.
While I understand that the first company that manages to create an interface that combines all our online streams is set to make a bundle, personally I have a major problem with this push for seamless integration. For those of us whose online business lives are not walled off behind a corporate firewall, automatic integration erases our ability to keep our personal and professional lives separate. I understand the essential nonexistence of online privacy and I'm not foolish enough to post embarrassing photos and the like on Facebook, but I would like to be able to write my grandmother an email in the evening without being bombarded by some business contact's shameless (and apparently ceaseless) self-promotion.

Am I just hopelessly old fashioned? Is that too much to hope for?

(Image of awesome cartoon by Oversocialized, CC 2.0)
  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.

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