Why I quit Google Buzz

Google Buzz seems to have mashed up a number of positive features from Twitter and Friendfeed into itself, and I quite like the idea – or rather, the vision it is supposed to espouse. Unfortunately, it is at a stage where too much of my private data is available to people I would much rather not allow access to.

So I quit it, removed all my buzzes, made my Google profile even more private than it was before, and thought – whew, I’m done. And then, all of a sudden, I’m bombarded with a ton of questions about why. This blog post is to coherently recount my thoughts (and have people correct me if I’m wrong).

First off – the question I hear most is – “Why not post privately to a group of people?”.

Easier said than done, unfortunately. Like many people, my gmail contacts list is a weird amalgamation of everyone from craiglist car-ad replies, to close friends, and even some colleagues. The thought of conversations with friends suddenly becoming visible to them is a bit unsettling.

Now how is this different from being on Twitter, you ask?

Well, in a number of ways. Anyone with a google account can follow you, and you’ve got to proactively block them from doing so – in my opinion, a slightly flawed strategy. I’d much rather prefer the Twitter/FB model of having *you* control who can or can’t follow you at the very beginning. [I also noticed some lag issues with Buzz wherein you may have followed or unfollowed or blocked someone, but 10 hours later, that operation seems never to have gone through. (Yes its a fledgling service, but still).

Coming back to private posts – Buzz does not offer a list of followers to post to. As a result, I don’t have the option of posting only to those active users on Buzz who follow me. Instead, I’m expected to create a list of people on my contact list who I can post to. And who do I see here? A list of contacts on gmail who I’ve interacted with most frequently – and who may not even be on Buzz! Is it really that hard implementing a “Post to Followers” feature?

Next – any time you mention a user with @, it gets autocompleted to @username@gmail.com – and this data is visible on your public google profile. While a twitter username is something that can’t very easily be mapped to a person, their email address is a whole new ball game. And I wouldn’t like my contact list being exposed to the world.

And its not just me. If I comment on a friend’s Buzz, and they haven’t bothered to make it private – this information is as easily obtained.

So till the time Buzz becomes a bit more private – I’m going to only follow Buzzes from a distance and not participate till I feel my issues with its privacy controls have been addressed.


Major privacy flak Google’s getting! Fugitivus has a very .. expressive .. blog post on this!