Jeremy Sharp, PhD Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Cheesy title, I know.

I imagine that most of you have heard of Google’s new social networking service, Buzz, and if you haven’t then you’ll likely hear of it very soon. It’s also likely that you’ve already read or heard of some of the privacy issues it’s creating, so I will warn you now that this post is another among many complaints. That said, I feel like the privacy concerns are particularly important in my line of work, where separation between personal and professional is quite necessary.

Let me begin by saying that I’m a big fan of Google’s services. If they could merge with Apple to create a super-company and take over the tech world, I don’t know that I would have many complaints. But Buzz stepped over the line in my opinion.

I was introduced to Buzz a couple of days ago via an altered log-in screen for my email account that asked if I’d like to try it out. Sure, why not? Google’s never wronged me in the past. Big mistake. Approximately seven seconds later, everyone in my contacts list had been sent a request to “follow” me – to see what I’m posting, reading, etc. It also asked me if I wanted to “follow” them. In an instant, a significant portion of my personal life was opened up to anyone I’d ever emailed in the past. This is huge. Since I use my email account for both personal and professional use, several clients (past, present, potential…) received this invitation. I admit that I set myself up for it by using the account for both purposes, but I would have at least liked to see a check box or the option to NOT send the invitation to every contact.

My privacy isn’t the only thing I’m concerned with. Buzz also allows you to see who’s following whom, meaning that IF I didn’t turn the service off (which I did immediately), clients’ identities may have been compromised.

Now, I admit that I walk a fine line with personal privacy. In the room, I’m a very transparent therapist…probably more so than most. I have no problem sharing personal info with clients most times. But this is my choice to do so; I get skittish when that choice is threatened. It took me about five years longer than everyone else to join Facebook because I was worried about protecting my personal info online. When Buzz took away that choice by automatically shooting out invites and such, I took offense. All I’m asking for is the option, prior to initiating the service, to select followers and have a little more control over the amount of social networking.

So that’s my rant. Here’s another good one from CNET’s Molly Wood. She’s a little more articulate and goes into more detail than I do, and it’s certainly worth reading along with the comments at the bottom. Notably, she mentions that all of these privacy settings are controllable if you take the time to tweak the settings. As I mentioned, you can avoid these issues by turning Buzz off as well. The issue is that you can only make these changes after you’ve agreed to try Buzz.

Okay, now I’m really finished. I’d be interested to hear others’ reactions to Buzz, or thoughts on confidentiality, personal privacy as a therapist, or anything else you’re thinking.


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