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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"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?

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.

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?

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)

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".


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.

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..


The Borg

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


but resistance is futile...

That is all.

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

Anonymous Coward
Thumb Down


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

"simples", really?

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

see Bill Hicks

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



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.

Rock Lobster
Thumb Up

Evil Google Icon

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

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...

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.



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.

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 @:

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.




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

Anonymous Coward

Turning off or just hiding?

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

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".


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?

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?!


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.

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.

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.

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?

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.



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

Andy Hards


Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

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 ?

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.

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 :)

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

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.

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Google Apps

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

Anonymous Coward
Anonymous Coward

Icon please

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

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?

Anonymous Coward


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

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?

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.


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...

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.

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.


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

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.

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 :-)

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?"

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.)

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!


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