Privacy tips for Google Buzz

By on Feb 15, 2010 in How-To Guides |

Google Buzz

Google Buzz

Google Buzz was released last week, and a positive spin on it would be that it could succeed where FriendFeed didn’t quite succeed, because of Google’s ready-made user base. A negative spin would be - we don’t need this. Certainly, I personally think that it’s naive to try replacing Twitter at this point. Twitter is not perfect, but we’re stuck with it, and there’s a great ecosystem of web services built up around it.

Sure, Google Buzz can take posts from Twitter and therefore work along side it, just like Facebook can. Although, Google Buzz is just going to be another place for replication of links. E.g. my blog posts updates to Twitter, and my Buzz account takes updates from both – I can see that it wouldn’t take many more steps to create a painful recursion here. To be fair, this is what the mute button is for, but why should we have to start playing whack-a-mole with all this? Duplication is also going to happen for committed Google users, who are likely to see the same updates appearing in their Google Reader as they are on their Buzz feed; unless they’re very strict about who they follow. Which reminds me, I had better unfollow most of those people Google automatically made me follow on day one …

In the interests of fairness, I should report that Google have responded, saying that they have replaced auto-follow with auto-suggestions. They’ll also make it easier to hide who you’re following, and to opt-out of Buzz completely; all via your GMail settings. At the time the writing though, none of these options were available in my GMail settings. Fortunately, there are other ways to get to these options, so here’s  a round up of blog posts showing you how to protect yourself with Google Buzz.

Hide your contacts. (LifeHacker)

You may think that letting the world see who you follow, and who follows you on Buzz is no worse than on Twitter. Although Buzz is based on your GMail account, and your e-mail is far more personal than Twitter. Do you really want the internet to see all the people who you regularly e-mail with? No, I didn’t think so.

The chances are that you have enabled Buzz because Google made this an opt-out rather than opt-in service. In which case, your Google Profile page will show how many people you follow and how many are following you. They will be displayed as links to the respective list of users. To hide this list, edit your profile, and look to the column of tick boxes, just left of your profile image. Clear the option that says “Display the list of people I’m following and people following me”.

Hide your Buzz followers

Hide your Buzz followers

Your profile URL can expose your GMail address. (TheNextWeb)

This isn’t really a problem with Buzz as such, but the release of Buzz surely puts a spotlight on the problem. When editing your Google Profile, you can choose to have a numeric URL for your profile, or a URL based on your GMail username, which is much more human readable. Fine, we like human readable URL’s, but not when it’s your e-mail address!

Again, edit your profile, and at the bottom of the page you should see an option with your profile URL, accompanied with a link saying “See other options”. Click this and you’ll get two radio buttons with the option of your GMail based URL and a numeric address. It’s not as pretty, but to keep your GMail address/username concealed, choose the numeric address.

Take your GMail username out of your profile URL

Take your GMail username out of your profile URL

Stop Buzz e-mails flooding your inbox. (LifeHacker)

One of the other ‘features’ of Buzz is that whenever anyone comments on your posts, they are sent straight to your inbox – not good. Fortunately you can easily fix this by setting up an e-mail filter.

Start by clicking the “Creating a filter” link towards the top of your GMail page. The first step is to tell the filter how to identify the mails. All subject lines of Buzz e-mails begin with “Buzz:”, so that’s simple enough.

How to identify Buzz e-mails in your filter.

How to identify Buzz e-mails in your filter.

The next step is to set what to do with the filtered e-mails. Here, we want to archive (i.e. remove the inbox label), and then apply another label (i.e. file into another folder). From the drop down list of labels you’ll probably need to select the option to create a new label.

Tell the filter what to do with the Buzz e-mails!

Tell the filter what to do with the Buzz e-mails!

Completely Disable Buzz. (CNET)

The final, nuclear option is to get out of Buzz completely. Although this isn’t just as simple as clicking the link at the bottom of your GMail page to turn Buzz off.

According to CNET you need to do the following before you opt-out of Buzz:

  • Make sure your profile is cleared of all personal information.
  • Delete all of your Buzz posts
  • They don’t say this, but I think you also need to make sure you remove all of your connected accounts.
  • Manually block all of your followers.

Finally, when you’ve done all that, go ahead and click the “Turn buzz off” link at the bottom of your GMail page.

This is bound to be an evolving subject, but at the time of writing, this covers how to best protect your privacy with Google Buzz. Good luck!