A Word of Caution about Google Buzz

February 11, 2010 @ 8:39 am | Filed under:

Like everyone else, I’m still trying to figure out the ins and outs of Buzz, but I made one discovery I wanted to tell other parents about ASAP—if your kid comments on one of your buzz posts, all your followers (as far as I can tell) can see that comment, even if they aren’t following your kid themselves. And it looks like you can only comment on buzz if you have made your Google profile public, so that means any other followers can click through to your child’s profile.

(Obviously this applies to any Buzz user, but I thought parents might be particularly concerned about their kids’ email privacy.)

If I’m understanding things correctly, you can follow people on Buzz (in Buzz? do we have grammar for this yet?) without making your Google Profile public. But in order to comment on (public) Buzz or write public Buzz yourself, you must make your Google Profile public. You may have done this automatically when you first clicked the Buzz link yesterday.

If I’ve got this wrong, please let me know and I’ll correct it. I tested it with Scott’s account—his Google Profile is private, and when I tried to comment on my account’s buzz from his account (you following this, LOL?), I got a pop-up saying he had to make his profile public in order to comment.

(Now, that was a PUBLIC buzz. Do you have to have a public profile to comment on a PRIVATE buzz?)

So okay, you know I love me my social media, but I love my kids’ email privacy even more. If your kids want to be able to Buzz, it might be a good idea to encourage minimalist profiles for them. Especially since, as I understand it, Buzz is going to be searchable via Google.

Oh, and in case you don’t know, you can turn Buzz off (and back on) by clicking a tiny link at the bottom of your gmail screen.

More to come as we continue to figure Buzz out. I do like the threaded conversations, but my first response to Buzz is that it’s too pushy. I love Twitter and Facebook, as you know, but I like having to make the extra effort to click there. My gmail inbox is already an overwhelming presence—I don’t know that I want MORE stuff in it. However, buzz can be filtered into folders like other gmail, so that can help cut down on inbox clutter at least.

UPDATED: In addition to having your kids keep their profiles either private (but then they can’t post or comment on public buzz) or very bare bones, with no personal info, you might also want to take a look at your own Google profile. The default setting publicly displays lists of everyone you follow, and everyone who follows you. And when you first activate buzz, these follower/followee lists are made up of 1) the people you follow/are followed by in Google Reader and 2) the email contacts you write most often. (!) So if you don’t want your Aunt Effie to know you’re g-chatting daily with her arch-enemy, your Aunt Prunella, you might want to uncheck those boxes.

(Or you could just ditch Buzz altogether. There is that.)

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11 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Christine M says:

    Thanks for these tips!

  2. Joy says:

    Need to go find out what Buzz is!

  3. Lori says:

    Yep, lots of privacy issues/bugs still to be worked out, as I hear it.

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    You can make each Buzz private if you wish, and create groups to send different buzz (buzzes?) to. This may be a good option for our kids.

  5. Melissa Wiley says:

    Another caution for those who may use Buzz on their mobile phones: the geotagging option could reveal your location (including home address):

    from PC Magazine:

    “One thing I immediately became concerned about when I heard about Buzz was privacy protection. I was worried people wouldn’t realize how much they were sharing publicly. When you start using Buzz, you have to agree to create a public Google profile that catalogs your updates. To find someone’s profile, you just Google his or her name and they should come up at the bottom of the first search page. The worst part of this is that if you geo-tagged your public posts, everyone on the Internet can see where you posted from. So, say you’re publicly posting an update about doing something at home. Once you do this, everyone on the Web can see where you live within a few blocks. Hello stalkers!”

  6. Meredith says:

    Wow, this is scary stuff, thanks for putting this one up 🙂

  7. Chris Faddis says:

    Thanks for posting this Melissa – I got this link from Lisa Hendey’s twitter.
    I’m about to write an initial review of buzz at http://www.newmediaministry.com – hadn’t thought through the privacy issues with kids as much. I do think there are some kinks to be worked out – like giving people privacy options – Google should have learned the volatile reaction of Facebook users when FB was planning to change privacy settings.

    I do think some people tend to get a little more fearful of this stuff then necessary – as if the whole world is living in the show 24 and will track you down. But it is certainly something to be weary of. Parents need to definitely research it and help their kids set up their accounts in the safest way possible.

    Like all things Google – they tend to release initial versions first and slowly but surely make changes as they go. I’m sure this is probably the same plan with Buzz. It may be wise to use with caution or just wait a little while. Although, like I’ve heard from many people – it may just be a little too much… now we have to update, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, Forums we belong too, oh and check our email, plus text messaging. That’s a lot of stuff. I wonder how we will all ever find the time to have real conversations. 🙂

    thanks for posting this.

  8. sarah says:

    I don’t use Buzz, don’t even know what it is, but this warning is good thank you. I discovered something similar with Facebook. I can’t remember the exact details now, but I do remember being startled that someone got access to my wall because they were a friend of a friend.

  9. Joanna says:

    Thanks for sensible details about Buzz, Melissa I’ve turned mine off and will make sure daughters do too.

    You don’t know me but I read your blog, and follow your website (I have a daughter the age of your Jane:Emily is 14 and I always wanted to homeschool so I guess I have a sort of fellow feeling for you. You do with your children a lot of what I do with mine, only my two – I also have Sophie who is nearly 18 – go to a private girls’ school here in England, in a city 12 miles away from the small village we live in, so in some ways their lives are very different.

    We read a lot of the same stuff too 🙂

  10. sprittibee says:

    Buzz makes me CRAZY. I’m leaning towards the ditching side after seeing a kid and mom comment session that was beyond private in my email box yesterday!

  11. MomsWorkatHome says:

    This is a really a bit scary!It’s easy enough these days to find out information as it is. You don’t need to make it any easier for them to find your child’s info. Thanks for the heads up on this one!