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    Privacy Questions Surrounding Google Buzz Social-Networking Service

    There are two stories connected with the Google Buzz social-networking site. The New York Times has an update on the privacy settings available in Google Buzz, some of which were changed after numerous concerns were raised about privacy issues after the initial release of the social-networking service.

    First, the changes since our last post. As a part of keeping its post-hubbub promise to make it easier to manage privacy on Buzz and opt out of using it altogether, Google added several Buzz items to the Gmail Settings page. To get there, click “Settings” at the very top right of Gmail and then click the Buzz tab on the far right. From there, you can choose to show publicly or hide the lists of people you are following and who are following you, hide the Buzz tab that appears underneath the “Inbox” tab on the left column of Gmail, and disable Buzz entirely.

    Google also added Buzz to its Dashboard, a page where people can manage their use of all of Google’s various products, from e-mail news alerts to Picasa photo sharing. The Buzz section shows how many people you’re interacting with on Buzz, a summary of your recent activity and a link to your profile page. It also includes direct links to the settings page called “Edit your profile” where you can add information you want to share on Buzz and restrict it via privacy controls, the privacy policy and help page. You can also quickly click to a page where you can delete your Buzz profile and disconnect from the service altogether. […]

    Q: Can you make posts visible to only the people you follow and who follow you?

    A: Google does not provide this as an option. You could create a group containing these people’s names and post privately to that group. But every time you follow someone new or someone new starts following you, you would have to add that person to the group.

    ZDNet reports on Microsoft social media researcher Danah Boyd’s criticisms of Google Buzz, especially the privacy scandal connected with the social-networking service’s launch, in a speech at SXSW.

    Google failed by interfacing Buzz, a public-facing system, with Gmail, “one of the most private systems imaginable.” The problem with that, she explained, is that “people genuinely believed that Google was exposing their private e-mails to the world.” […]

    Differentiating between what she called articulated networks and behavioral networks, she characterized different kinds of social interactions and expectations based upon a user’s context (e.g., online and social vs. personal and confidential). When those two contexts get mixed, as Google did with Buzz, people get alarmed.

    “There’s a big difference between publicly available data and publicized data,” she said, “and I worry about this publication process, and who will be caught in the crossfire.”

    Boyd certainly touched on some open nerves and revealed more evidence of the shifting perception of Google and Microsoft.

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