Following the launch of its new social networking utility Buzz, Google has been swarmed with privacy complaints. The main grievance is that Buzz publicly shares details about users' contacts. After creating a new account, Buzz generates a unique buddy list based on the user's Gmail contacts. By default, this list becomes public on one's profile. In one alleged instance, a woman's abusive husband gained access to her contact information. Needless to say, privacy advocates are enraged. But is all the fury warranted? A pair of bloggers think not:
"People are getting all worked up over nothing," writes Larry Seltzer at PC Magazine:
Many users have unrealistic expectations of privacy while at the same time expecting to be able to communicate with new and cutting-edge technologies with anyone in the world. If you want to stay private, don't blast yourself all over the Internet, and opt for the opt-out option.
Philipp Lenssen at BlogoScoped agrees:
Rome isn’t burning and Sergey Brin isn’t playing the fiddle, and yesterday I saw some people who apparently think that Google now simply reveals all your Gmail contacts, which isn’t true.
He gives five reasons not to worry. Two of them focus on the fact that you can turn off Buzz, and that Google has been responsive to complaints. Here are three others:
- "Google won’t just reveal your Gmail address book to the world. Only if you opt-in to follow certain people who are suggested to you in Buzz do they have a chance to show up on your public Google profile as people you follow."
- "Even if someone is shown to follow you in Buzz, it does not mean they’re your contact, or that you email frequently with them, or that you even know them... If your competing company’s boss is showing up on your profile it’s not proof you’re looking to switch offices – the other party may simply be interested in what you have to say."
- "You can turn off having contacts be shown on your profile. Just go to your profile settings and check off 'Display the list of people I’m following and people following me.'"