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Innovation

Can Google get Buzz privacy right?

Google is reworking its privacy settings again for the oft-maligned Buzz social media/email aggregation tool. Primarily, the company is asking Buzz users to review their settings, who they're following, who is following them, and who sees public versus private Buzz posts.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

Google is reworking its privacy settings again for the oft-maligned Buzz social media/email aggregation tool. Primarily, the company is asking Buzz users to review their settings, who they're following, who is following them, and who sees public versus private Buzz posts. I actually like Buzz, but don't work in an environment where a lot of people are communicating in a more real-time social way. Email remains king at my day job. However, I have to wonder if Buzz was damaged beyond repair by its ill-fated launch.

For any of you not familiar with Google Buzz, the company provides a handy YouTube primer:

More interesting than the video, though, is the top-rated comment on the YouTube clip (courtesy of user mcgrewrich):

When I signed up for gmail I was trying to set up a PRIVATE EMAIL ACCOUNT not join some social network where everyone can see who I email the most. This Google Buzz creeps me out, seriously. MySpace and Facebook are social networking sites that you login to and you can CONTROL privacy settings. I am sure Google Buzz is useful for oppressive regimes to identify dissidents. When did you forget the slogan "Don't be evil"? I still use gmail and YouTube but I am NOT going to enable Buzz. Sorry.

Ouch. Sure, this is just one comment, but a general theme of negativity ran through many of the others. One in particular stood out:

Too bad you guys released this thing publicly without ironing out some privacy issues first. What happened to the traditional alpha/beta release cycle?

So now users hit Buzz and are asked to review settings in a fairly friendly way (far better than Facebook's last privacy settings switch, but still very easy to just hit the "Looks OK" button) and then we're back to normal. I guess.

Maybe it's just that Buzz is an application looking for an audience. Google employees, for example, use it internally all the time and it's an effective business tool. SocialWok tapped the Buzz API to enhance their Apps-centered approach to business collaboration and social networking with great success. And yet people still just log in to Facebook.

Google might just be ahead of their time here, but I'm inclined to think that the Buzz brand was so tainted by its launch that a few tweaks here and there won't be enough to revolutionize the way we communicate or share; it won't be enough to really unify our communication streams and still doesn't really have the horsepower to do that anyway.

Time for something new, Google...base it on Buzz and Wave technologies if you like, but I don't see Buzz taking off anytime soon.

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