back to article Google Buzz leaves privacy concerns ringing in ears

What’s that really annoying humming sound bothering your lugholes? Oh yes, Google Buzz. Bah. And so it has come to pass - Mountain View’s sinister personal data grab has finally crept into the most sacred of all online communication tools. Gmail now has the ability to do social networking. Google wants to out-Facebook …


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  1. Vitani


    "The problem with Buzz is that Google didn’t offer its 176 million Gmail users an opportunity to opt in to the service"

    "Buzz also demands a public profile to be created before the account can be fully activated within Gmail."

    Um, how about you don't set up a public profile, and therefore opt-out of the service?

    1. Gerard Krupa

      Re: Um?

      "Um, how about you don't set up a public profile, and therefore opt-out of the service?"

      The same public profile is used for other features such as posting in Google Groups and commenting in the Android Market so plenty of people already had one set up before Buzz appeared.

  2. Dirk Vandenheuvel

    Running themselves into the ground

    If things continue like this for Google they will be a distant memory in 2020. One trick pony?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Gates Horns

      Never say never...

      Dirk... 25 years ago, I didn't believe that personal computing - then released from the clutches of the evil "central computing model" - would ever go back. 15 years ago, I didn't believe that the internet would ever invert the relationship between doing and communicating.

      Never underestimate the gullibility (and market power) of the lowest common denominator.(oops, I said it)

    2. Big-nosed Pengie


      Well, you'd hope so. But it seems that Google, like all the rest, know damn well that 90% of the sheeple will never consider issues of privacy. Their motto should be "never give a sucker an even break".

  3. wgae

    Automatic opt-in... standard Google behaviour. Time and time again I am surprised that the folks in MV can be soo stupid and mess around deliberately with user privacy.

    Hope this time the tide turns against them. It's about time.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      The consequences make it illegal in the UK

      If Google offers a service that by default exposes personal details it breaks the Data Protection Act 1998.

      AFAIK, it is not permissable to implicitly get permission for the use of personal data (i.e. as a consequence of some other action) in a different context (and publishing it is), that permission MUST be obtained explicitly.

      In other words, Brits can file a complaint with the Information Commissioner, their email address is

      And no, I won't say "I told you so" concerning Google's respect for your privacy, although it's been evident for quite a few years. I'll just think it..

  4. Number6

    The Borg

    Sometimes I'm glad I don't have a Gmail account.

    1. Law

      but resistance is futile...

      That is all.

      <wonders where the Borg cube icon is... >

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    "[...]adopts the simples approach[...]"

    "simples", really?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      see Bill Hicks

      yep simples, from the tv advert, the author shameless sucks devil dick

  6. Bilgepipe


    Same privacy defaults as Farcebook.

    If I don't get a way to remove all sign of Buzz from my GMail account, I'll be moving to another email provider. Vote with your feet.

    No icon - we need an Evil Google icon.

    1. Rock Lobster
      Thumb Up

      Evil Google Icon

      I'd vote for the %) -icon in the screenshot ;)

    2. Rod MacLean


      Use gmail via POP3/SMTP - no need to log into the web page, no chance of being asked to set up a Buzz profile...

  7. Mike 119


    I'm gradually weaning my self off gmail due to this, GMX will be my mail provider of choice.Even if their imap is wonkey.

    1. Vitani


      Have you tried just turning it off?

      At the bottom of the Gmail page: "Google Mail view: standard | turn on chat | **turn off buzz**"

      Look before you leap.

      1. Rodrigo Rollan

        That's (NOT) all folks....

        that action removes the naoying flag on the left panel. It does not remove Buzz. Actions required to remove the whole thing @:

  8. Anonymous Coward

    tired to comment about google

    It's not even funny anymore.

    They are trying to overthrow the regime in Iran so let's hope that at one point the Western world will do the same with Google. I say: to make the world a safer place let's re-aim all missiles from Tehran to Mountain View and press that red button.


  9. Bilgepipe

    ** HOW TO HIDE BUZZ **

    There's a link at the very bottom of the GMail page, next to the "Standard" link, that removes the Buzz thing from GMail.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Turning off or just hiding?

      Is it turning it off completely or just hiding it from view? Very unclear.

  10. John Ridley 1


    I am playing with Buzz. It doesn't seem to me to be any worse than Failbook - in fact at least it's pretty easy to tell if your data is available or not. Failbook has so many back alleys that can release your data that it's almost impossible to properly lock it down.

    And it's easy to make your profile private, and it's trivial to totally opt out.

    And GMail/Reader/other Google apps were web 2.0 a long time ago - AFAIK, the term is not synonymous with "social networking".

    1. Flodge

      FUD Mongers unite

      What's the personal security flap about?

      Mine has been set up with all the public options switched off, I had to edit my profile to switch them on - which I didn't.

      It's just another facebook/twitter pile of badger's paws with slightly better multi-media. It's drawback is it seems to be gmail users only?

      If you don't like buzz, switch it off. If you don't like gmail, use another provider. If you don't like Google, use another search engine etc. Nobody's forcing anyone here.

      Conspiracy Theories: Idle rumours, conjured by dullards, who fear the truth, and try to find patterns amongst the chaos, because they find comfort in the idea that someone is in control of events.

      What nonsense next? Google Wave floods New Orleans [again]? Google ate my children? Google cloud found on Mars?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    buzz orf.

    Thank fuck I don't have a public profile attached to my gmail account. But surely these kinds of privacy grabs must contravene all sorts of data protection laws?!


  12. Gerard Krupa


    Unfortunately I think Google's fire-and-forget (or is that launch-and-don't-listen) policy will win the day again and the popularity of Buzz will overshadow the concerns of the few privacy-savvy users because it brings something new and interesting to the field (which in fact relies on the lack of privacy).

    Posts you make on Buzz are, by default, public and if possible geo-tagged as well; "nothing special compared with Twitter" you say? It's integrated into the latest version of Maps for mobile allowing you to see the Buzz posts made around your location (or any other location for that matter). Those badgers' paws now have a local angle and I suspect will prove to be a hit because of that.

    But caveat buzzor. If you post from work your boss just has to start up Maps on his phone to see what you said about his parentage and that bank teller who wouldn't waive your overdraft fees has just changed the name on your account to "Ivan Toshagponies" because you Buzzed in anger while standing just outside the building.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hiding Buzz

    Does it actually remove it and get rid of the public facing changes, or does it simply hide the links? I notice in Reader that despite hiding Buzz I'm still getting share requests as other people sign in and get unwittingly Buzzed up. I think it's a poor way for Google treat its users and will be moving. And before anyone replies with "you didn't pay anything for it", I've invested a lot of time in building an environment around Gmail. Their behaviour has been increasingly concerning me and I will be dismantling it in due course, but it still has a cost associated.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      It doesn't even let you remove e-mails

      "Does it actually remove it and get rid of the public facing changes"

      No. It doesn't even let you destroy emails. Ever.

      Of course those are not visible in web-UI, but try to use IMAP and ask folder list from server.

      Ta-daa, there's a hidden folder tree which includes every mail you've ever got/sent (except spam), starting from folder 'Gmail'.

      You don't own your emails, Google does.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        This is news to you?

        The more data they collect about you, the better they can target their ads.

        Bottom line, Google is evil!

        Eric Schmidt is really Burt from Sesame Street and I can prove it. Notice how they are never in the same room at the same time?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That may contravene Data Protection

        Thanks for that, I'll have a look. If I find it, Google Europe will get a letter from my by registered post plus a formal complaint.

        Google made the mistake of basing themselves in Switzerland, and they have already seriously pissed off the regulators by pretending they didn't matter when they got complaints about Streetview (disappointingly not atypical for a large US company, somehow they think size allows them to export US laws instead of obeying the local ones).

        Something like this will create even more problems, and AFAIK the regulator does have the power to take them to Court - and will.

  14. Shadowfirebird


    My surname in my public profile is "Off". I invite you to imagine my first name...

    1. Andy Hards


      Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

  15. Tim Parker

    All accounts ?

    "Mountain View simply slotted Buzz into all its Gmail accounts. "

    Really ? Not here it didn't, although it's not listed in the Labs tab of Settings either. Where was that nugget from ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Patience padawan

      They're rolling it out to everyone, just in stages, so you will get it in a wee bit. First time you do, when you log in to gmail there's a splash screen about Buzz, and then there's a new icon under your inbox link.

      1. Tim Parker

        Re : patience

        Perhaps - we shall see - my main question was where was the information from that *all* GMail accounts would have it added (including those via Apps, corporate accounts etc) - I just like to make sure the information is correct and from a proper source rather than doing a Chicken Licken :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: All accounts ?

      For obvious reasons, if you use gmail as a mail provider and not log into the web app, it will never ask you to sign up, won't show you other peoples posts etc etc

      1. Tim Parker

        Re : All accounts ?

        "For obvious reasons, if you use gmail as a mail provider and not log into the web app, it will never ask you to sign up"

        Um - yeah - you know what, I think it's fairly safe to say that.

        My point was (is) i'm still unconvinced that it'll be pushed to the web apps for non-individual (for want of a better phrase) accounts. I will be rightly pissed of if they do, but i'm still waiting to hear from the author (or anyone else) where the information it *would be* pushed everywhere comes from.

        Until then - i'll just treat it as hear-say.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google Apps

    I get my Gmail via Google Apps, which as of writing seems to be thankfully Buzz-free...

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Icon please

    How about a little competition to choose a shiny new evil Google icon?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Icon please

      And while you're at it, how about one for "Incompetent Microsoft" as well as Evil and Good MS?

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Never attribute to stupidity that which can be adequately explained by malice. :-)

  18. Deadlock Victim

    Buzz is just too damn creepy

    A link and an icon show up in Gmail one day. I click it. I notice that I somehow already have 6 people following me. Preemptive stalking? Lolwut?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure all the people who don't like this

    ...can cancel their GMail account and ask for their money back.


    1. Rod MacLean

      RE: I'm sure all the people who don't like this

      Yep. Anyone with the technical savvy to read the Register will surely be intelligent enough to know how to cancel their free gmail account and get free email from some other source if/when they decide they don't like Buzz.

      It's free after all - if you don't like it, don't use it...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      How about my data?

      "...can cancel their GMail account and ask for their money back.


      I'd rather have my e-mail and personal data destroyed.

      But of course you don't get that option with Google, if they have it, they'll keep it.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        So you think that if you cancel your gmail account, Google will keep your emails etc?

        Let's see some evidence for this FUD, please.

  20. ShellShockeD

    virgin media users?

    being on blueyonder then sold to virgin who have resently give all the email accounts to be run by gmail i do hope we do not get this stupid buzz attached to our mail . i was not happy about the mail being sent to google as the blueyonder servers have worked pritty well for the last 10 years with the odd outage

  21. Jeremy 2

    Block it at the firewall or in the hosts file...

    Presumably, much like Gmail chat, this annoying pile of privacy destroying crap (sorry, "social networking tool") can be easily and permanently blocked at the firewall. Disallowing all connections to would be a good start and I'd imagine somebody will pick their service to bits and find any other hosts that should be blocked before too long.

  22. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    There's one born every minute

    Look before you leap, read the small print, think about the potential consequences, read between the lines ...

    All caution and sensibilities are thrown to the wind - like rushing into a busy road to grab a £50 note floating by - when users are presented with the new shiny gizmo they can't wait to try. And try they will if it gets the normal herd-come-hive mind hype of the social networkers.

    Some years down the line and the very same will be wondering how it is GoogleMegaCorp know so much about them, why there's a GoogleCam on their bedroom wall they don't recall signing up for.

    Data and identity protection are all pretty pointless when people will willingly hand that over no questions asked, and that's exactly what things like this are designed to do. Won't be long before those who don't or won't will be treated with suspicion. After all, if you've nothing to hide you have nothing to fear :-)

    1. Gerard Krupa

      Re: There's one born every minute

      "if you've nothing to hide you have nothing to fear"

      Well it's a bit contrived but when you're browsing the map looking for Buzzes there are plenty of ways for the foolish and ignorant to hoist themselves on their own petard without the need for Google to invade their privacy.

      Buzz from 23-27 Some Street: "just heading out to the restaurant with the family, back in 2 hours"

      Buzz from Nandos "oops, I think I left the door unlocked, silly me"

      Buzz from 25-31 Some Street: "Oh crap! House was burgled. How did they know I wasn't in?"

  23. Tim J

    May I recommend FastMail.FM...

    It's a paid for email service that offers some pretty advanced functionality. They're very well established, have a big customer base., and don't cost all that much really.

    I've been a satisfied paying customer for, ooh, seven years or so. I remember people getting all excited over Gmail, but I was wary - Google obviously wanted to flog you stuff in return for all this freebie goodness - and I'm glad that I'm now not in a situation where my life is reliant on the boys from Mountain View.

    Remember folks, free costs.

    (No, I don't work for FastMail or anything along those lines, am just a punter.)

  24. Yes Me Silver badge

    Buzz off

    It's a pin of course but declining it and hiding the buzzy folder in "other" seems to get rid off the daily annoyance, and rejecting 'please be my friend' requests is part of life anyway,

    But this is close to being evil, Googlers!

  25. Tom 7

    Not my name

    not my details - just enough data to have an account. Only go the account to join up to Google Wave - remember that?

    140 people cried out to join and no ones used it since Dec2

  26. Petrea Mitchell
    Gates Horns


    Flailing around trying to duplicate every popular service in existence on its own infrastructure? Does that sound like another large computer company we've all heard of, when it was at a similar age?

  27. Anonymous Coward

    What's new?

    @Gerard Krupa

    I don't have a profile set up with my Google Mail account but can use Android services without trouble so you don't need to create a profile. Comments left on the marketplace don't have to contain any personal information at all, no real names or contact details (it uses your first name or whatever you put in the first name field). I also have yet to be pestered by Google to create a profile but should they do so and I have no choice but to fill in some details, I'll make it up as usual.

    I personally find the likes of Hotmail and Yahoo far more invasive in their requests for personal information but then I use these accounts more often than my free Google one but do concede Google is creepy in the depths they go to in harvesting personal information from your internet usage for sure.

  28. NRT

    Another way to switch it off

    Goto Settings

    Filters tab

    There in small type you will find, "turn off chat" & "Turn off buzz".

    What I don't know yet is if these settings are cookie based, do I need to keep on turning the wretched things off?


    1. chris 130
      Thumb Up

      Great tip to turn off CHAT & BUZZ, thanks

      BTW, you can find it on any page, its in the bottom footer of Google mail page

  29. Ian Michael Gumby

    Shirely you jest!

    "Gmail users that their inbox won’t be sabotaged by spammers."

    <sarcasm alert>

    Spammers, really?

    Didn't you know that via Eric Schmidt that there is nothing bad on the net and if you wanted to keep your private details, er well private, than you shouldn't be doing that on the net in the first place?

    Shame on you El Reg for promoting 'evil' things on the 'net...

    </sarcasm alert>

    C'mon, anyone who uses Google's e-mail, etc should know by now that Big brother is watching you. And by big brother I'm talking about Google itself.

  30. RichardBellamy

    Do no evil? Evil no do.

    Google now believe their own mantra to the extent that if they do it it can't possibly be evil. What with this and rolling out their own Googlenet in America something smells a bit fishy.

    CSM 101 because they are building Skynet.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The one image in the article appears to be a link, maybe to enlarge (?), however is redirecting to a 404 error page. Please fix or remove?

  32. J 37

    Why the hell would you use your real identity?

    I've never understood this narcissistic need to inform all and sundry that your boy / girlfriend / husband / wife / dog / cat / neighbor / inanimate carbon rod is a rockstar douchbag saint. Nor why the average foodtube considers free services to be safe and secure and above reproach.

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Aaargghhh!!! Who cares about you privacy anyway!!

    So you all think that the other FREE (yes free no charge) email providers are not keeping your information? If you are use electronic devices, bank cards, the internet - you've left tracks, your privacy is shot.

    Remember that time when you accidentaly typed porn into a search engine? Used your credit card? Your mobile phone? When somebody forwarded an email from you to all his friends with your details still included? Some idiot published you email in a publicly accessable document? Walked through an airport, a train station, or shopping centre? Posted on TheRegister?

    You have no privacy unless you are an autistic hermit, living in a desert, eating and crapping sand, with no electronic communications and who knows nobody.

    It is the 21st century, privacy is gone, it wil get worse - JUST GET OVER IT!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aaargghhh!!! Who cares about you privacy anyway!!

      Would you kindly email me a signed picture of your genitals to prove that point?

      And just to prove the goods are yours can you please stand by your local street sign and hold up a copy of your birth certificate when you take the picture?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      You're in the wrong thread

      StreetView is over there.

  34. Gaz Davidson
    Thumb Up

    I actually like it

    Unlike Facebook who actually takes complete ownership of all data you pump into their system, this supports XFN and RSS and politely links back to the original posts. It moves the status of a social network from data owning monopoly to data whoring aggregator, which IMO is far better.

    So Google can now tie my email account to my blog posts, tweets and YouTube videos, nothing new there. They know who my friends are, nothing new there either. Where we once had privacy by obscurity we now have none, but we gain a rich social layer to the public Internet which was not there before and will continue growing not just at Google HQ but throughout the semantic web.

    I'd be quite happy for my profile here to have an XFN link back to my blog, so I can share this, and other interesting topics like it with my contacts without purposely spamming them.

  35. Flodge
    Black Helicopters

    Google mania?

    This makes very interesting reading:

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As far as the content goes...

    ... I can't figure out what niche Buzz is trying to fill, exactly.

    The best thing I can describe it as is a friends-only Twitter with an RSS reader for other social networking mashed into it; this immediately highlights it's major problem, which is that Twitter is so successful because it's open and searchable and browsable and hashtaggable and RTable and all that other chaff that makes up Twitter... which Buzz doesn't have. Okay, it's nice to have no character limit and the ability to do simple threading, but where's my searching for zeitgeist topics, where's my ... searching at all? This is Google, isn't that kind of their speciality? As it is you're just shouting out into a group of people you could reach via gchat, wave or even just plain old email already. All it's doing is speeding up cc:s.

    It's also nice to be able to automatically get people's twitter feeds or blog posts from other sites automatically fed into it... this is still no more useful than an RSS feed, however, because you can't post back to those original sources. It's like saying to someone 'well, I'll listen to you shout across this field but when I want to reply you'll have to walk over to me'. The lack of multi-threading may be an issue if it ever gets high-volume posts going, because it means everyone's replies will just be in one blob rather than making more coherent ordered sense.

    And of, course, any of my friends who care about micromessaging or status updates like this have a twitter anyway, so they don't care about it... Ultimately, about the only thing it's got going for it right now is the fact it's right there in your email window.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Same anon as 'content'

    ... oh, and the fact it doesn't currently have any options to manage how email alerts or visual behaviour or hiding posts are handled is absolutely dire.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voting with feet ...

    I had already starting ditching google mail as an aggregator. This kind of vindicates my decision.


  39. James Hughes 1

    Public Profile

    Forgive me if I am wrong, but surely the name of the thing that gets made public to all and sundry is PUBLIC PROFILE?

    Surely the name is a bit of a giveaway?

    I'm not sure Google have really done anything really bad here. All they have done is make your PUBLIC profile accessible via the Buzz system (have I got that wrong?) Surely the fact that this is a PUBLIC profile means that making it, er PUBLIC is to be expected?

    Now, if they had made a PRIVATE profile PUBLIC that perhaps would be a problem.

  40. Maryland, USA
    Thumb Up

    It's the only social media service I can use at work

    Here in the offices of the U.S. Federal Gummint , Facebook is blocked. All chat programs are blocked. Twitter is blocked. But wonder of wonders, Buzz is not.

  41. Jack 23


    Creepy is the right word. You can't turn it off from your settings page - the switch is buried in the small type at the bottom of the mailbox page. It's like someone who touches you in the wrong place when you hug them.

  42. steve hayes

    Confirmed - Google does not respect your privacy

    If it had any inkling of respect it would not shipped out this spyware ridden release - Spyware because you were opted in without you knowing!

    Obviously in Google's eyes : Google Profit > Customer Privacy

  43. ScissorHands

    Good thing I'm a luddite...

    ... and cling to those archaic contraptions, *e-mail clients*, to read, y'know, E-MAILS, with an IMAP connection to Gmail!

    I just logged in to www.Gmail (for the first time in weeks) to say "No, just get me to my Inbox" and turn off Buzz in the timid, self-effacing, nerd-in-front-of-a-girl-like link to "Turn Buzz off".


  44. Neoc


    Slapped together a PC using spare parts from dead PCs I had lying around. Loaded Ubuntu Server on this low-powered Frankenstein's monster, added Zimbra with SpamAssasin, got myself a domain name and voila - instant mail server, as many email accounts as I care, with a fairly decent web front-end as well as IMAP/POP3 for Thunderbird. Fairly cheaply too.

    Used it remotely recently during my holiday in Cambodia/HK - created a throw-away mail account, with a password I wasn't going to use again and temporarily re-directed my mail to it. No fear of my email password being harvested at an e-cafe, just nuked the account when I got home (after transferring the mail over, of course).

  45. chris 130


    I have always avoided all this sort of bullcrap and have checked Googles data on me -it is crap and useless - but by default -I might now be advertising myself to the unwashed masses out there looking to trouble me.

    I have a dog and a crowbar and will learn how to use them and get some big tattoos;


  46. Anonymous Coward

    I could do with a couple of kilos of Viagara and some nigerian investments, where can I find them?

    Ohhh maybe Buzz can help the appropraiyte honest merchants to find me

    most excellent indeed.

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