Well, my first impression of Google Buzz is that it’s a convenient way to FriendFeed my stuff to Google contacts. But I’m surprised at how poor of an interface it released with…I can’t recall the last major online service where I’ve been so confused on how to perform as simple a task as finding the settings panel. For example, last night I stumbled upon the option to set my Buzz to be “Public” or “Private”…and it took me awhile to remember how I got there this morning. The shortest path that I’ve found is to click on my own name in Google Buzz, then find the “profile link”, which takes me to another intermediary page where I have to divine that the link “Add more info to profile” will take me to a few basic privacy settings.
How about a simple “Privacy settings” link that Facebook wisely added at least a year ago? Why didn’t Google learn such an obvious feature from the leader?
This confusion is pretty inexcusable given that I’ve been on GMail for at least four years…this interface should be at least halfway intuitive. Even worse, there’s little to assure me how specific and granular these settings are. Facebook deserves to be criticized for its privacy missteps, but it’s done a fine job in giving us a huge amount of flexibility in designating what is viewable to whom.
With Buzz, I know there’s some kind of change between a “Private” and “Public” Google profile…but does setting it Private also make it so that random people can’t follow my Buzz? Or just that my profile information (city, date of birth, mugshot, etc) is hidden? Maybe Buzz wanted to go for the “Apple” approach in arrogantly deciding what’s best for the user in order to have the most clutter-free interface. But I think privacy concerns trump having a lowest-common-denominator interface.
Especially since Google is already in the limelight for owning too much of our personal information. Now they’ll have a database of every status update you made, and if it was from your phone, where you were.
Google’s sloppy approach has already made for some awful PR: WARNING: Google Buzz has a huge privacy flaw, says Silicon Alley, referring to how Buzz automatically sets you up to follow your most-contacted people.
I wouldn’t call that a huge privacy flaw…99% of people would be OK with following the people they message the most. But for journalists who may be using GMail for contacting anonymous sources…that’s a horrible default setting. Actually, I think the problem is that by default, this list of followers is publicly available…unless you go into the settings and find the appropriate checkbox. Now how do you get to the privacy settings again?…