Google Buzz faces privacy backlash

Jacob Nahin

Last week, the Google war-machine released its latest weapon in the microblogging turf-war. Its name, Google Buzz, sounds less like a jolting juggernaut and more like a bothersome insect.

As many GMail users are already aware, the new Buzz feature can be found under the “Inbox” category in the email service. Similar to Twitter competitor Friendfeed, Buzz has an area for comments and can import other data from services like Twitter, Flickr and Google Reader.

However, the service has been met with backlash in the tech-community because of annoying Inbox messages and privacy concerns.

First, the Inbox issues. Every time someone comments on a Buzz that you have already commented on, another email is added to your inbox. At first, this sounds like a convenient feature, meant to help you keep up with the conversation. Unfortunately, the feature works more like this: John comments on Jane’s Buzz. Email number one. Five minutes later, Mark leaves another comment. Email number two. And it keeps going and going.

Lifehacker posted a work-around for this problem. One can set up filters that will deliver the emails to another category within GMail.

According to a recent article from Silicon Alley Insider, privacy was also a concern. When selecting people for Buzz users to follow, Buzz picked people whom the Buzz user frequently communicates and publicly displays the followers by default. This was a problem for those who would prefer their most-frequently-emailed list remain private. Google has since apologized and fixed this problem by changing this “auto-follow” function to an “auto-suggest” feature.

For users who would like to turn Buzz off and avoid all this confusion, simply click “turn off buzz” at the bottom of the GMail screen.