zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
I'm writing this as I explore Buzz's privacy issues, so what I write at the start is amended by what I discover further on. I note ETAs briefly after I've finished exploring. This got bloody long; if you don't have all that time, scroll down to my conclusion or to the TL;DR.

If you have a GMail account, Buzz is enabled. [ETA: This turns out to be not as scary as it sounds. But still.]

The splash screen where it asks if you want to check it out or not? That doesn't mean "Do you want the function or not?" It means "You have the function. Do you want to know more about it or not?" Even if you click no, you'll see the Buzz logo in your side nav-bar under the Inbox.

Click on the logo and it'll show you you're automatically following some people and some people are automatically following you. It also tells you that "Your Google Reader shared items, Picasa Web public albums, and Google Chat status messages will automatically appear as posts in Buzz." [ETA: It turns out that this sentence is a lie. It means "If you connect them, they'll automatically appear".]

[Sidebar: This is an example of why automatically sharing things is a bad thing to do [ETA: or even to threaten to do]. It's also a great example of privilege at work, in that Google engineers apparently have the privilege of not fearing for their lives.

So. There's a line that says "Zeborah (Edit) - 0 connected sites - 5 followers". I click on that "5 followers". The top follower is someone I don't even know. I don't know his name, and though he has a public profile it only consists of his name and avatar - I can't tell anything about him from it. I click on "Block". [ETA: I just thought to check my gmail contacts. It turns out to be someone I emailed once to give something away on Freecycle. Once. I don't know why he's following me; maybe he really likes Buzz; maybe he's got very few contacts so Gmail randomly decided he should follow me.]

The next 4 followers are all people I know. They don't have public profiles, so no-one else will see that they're following me. (This is what Google was talking about as one of its privacy improvements.) But they're still following me even though I've never said that I even want to be followable. Of course they probably don't realise that they're following me, just like I didn't realise I was following 12 people.

I go back to the main Buzz screen and click on the list of the 12 people I'm following. One of those people is actually a pseudonym for myself. It's like "Superman" to Clark Kent: it's the name I use to fight crime. (Specifically, 419 scammers.) When I'm fighting crime, I'd really rather that the criminals I'm emailing not know who I am in real life. I'm really open in sharing about myself on the internet; I'd forgotten that even I have reasons to be careful of privacy. Mental note: go onto the 419 crime-fighters forum and write a tutorial about Buzz.

So at this point I open my librarian-persona gmail in another browser. Librarian follows Zeborah and unfollows everyone else. Zeborah shares an item in Google Reader and... Huh, actually it doesn't turn up in Librarian's Buzz. Why is that?

Zeborah doesn't have a Google profile; so let's create one. I go back to the "Zeborah (Edit) - 1 connected site - 5 followers" line and click on "Edit". I leave everything blank and untick things so that I'm not automatically sharing anything, then at the bottom click "Create Profile".

Now Librarian is able to see Zeborah's profile, but still can't see who Zeborah is following or what Zeborah has shared in Google Reader.

Zeborah follows Librarian. Zeborah can now see all Librarian's items. Librarian still can't see who Zeborah is following or what Zeborah has shared.

Going back to the "Zeborah (Edit) - 0 connected sites - 5 followers" line I click on "0 connected sites". I leave the first page alone and click "Next"; now it asks me to create a profile. This is apparently different from a regular Google profile which I've already created? [ETA: Not different exactly, but it adds fields into the regular Google profile which weren't there before.] Anyway, it lets me opt out of showing off who I'm following and who's following me, so I untick that box and create the profile. (Even if I tick that box, Librarian can only see that I'm following "1 other person without a public profile", so it does protect that person's privacy as long as they don't create a profile.)

Librarian still can't see Zeborah's previously created shared post.

Zeborah creates a second shared post - now Librarian can see that.

If Zeborah unfollows Librarian, Librarian can still see Zeborah's shared posts (including new ones).

If Zeborah blocks Librarian (when Librarian was previously able to see Zeborah's shared posts) Librarian can still see Zeborah's old shared posts, but not new ones.




Tentative conclusion (because this much exploring fades my brain)
I think that people can't see who you're following or who's following you unless you've opted to create a Buzz profile and left the option ticked, and even then they can't see the names of anyone who hasn't created their own profile. I think that people can't in fact see your shared items unless you opt in by adding connected sites, and I think that even then they can't see items you've shared in the past, only what you share from now on. However if someone can see your stuff and then you block them, they can still see your old stuff.

I think that "Librarian is following you" actually means "Librarian would like to follow you if/when you create a Buzz profile and add connected sites".

I think that all of this could have been a lot clearer. This just took me an hour and a half to figure out, which is unacceptable.

And I think that when you block someone, it should remove all your past items from their view.

TL;DR
If you've done nothing with Buzz, you're probably fine.
If you have done stuff with Buzz and are concerned about privacy, you probably want to:
  • Check your connected sites - you want that to be 0. If it's not 0, click on it then for each site listed, click "Edit" -> "Remove site". Save your changes.
  • Check your profile - click "Edit" next to your name. Delete all the information you want deleted and untick all the boxes. Save your changes.
You'll still see that people are 'following' you, but as far as I can tell they won't be able to actually see anything.
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
So I'm leaving early for church to have time to pick up my violin from my parents' place and get there early since I'll be the only violin in orchestra this week. <click> goes the lock on my door and about twenty metres down the road I think, "Wait, did I remember to put my keys, bus card, and wallet back in this bag after I went shopping on Friday night?"

No, I didn't. But never fear, I keep a spare key in a specific but obscure corner of the garden for just this sort of situation!

Except it wasn't there. It wasn't even under the rather heavy caking of dirt and moss that's built up where it's meant to be. Maybe it got washed away in the heavy rain we had(!), or disturbed when the lawnmower guy last came, but I can't find it in the weeds nearby either. Maybe one of my family borrowed it and forgot about it. Maybe some stranger spent hours poking around my overgrown garden and found it, but nothing's missing from the house....

Fortunately my father keeps a spare spare key for me, and I had left *really* early for church. So I walked briskly half an hour to my parents' place. Luckily a couple from church spotted me and drove me the last little bit, saving me five minutes and helping me catch my breath. Mum let me in (normally I'd let myself in) and I grabbed the violin and got to church just in time for the service.

After which I borrowed Dad's spare key and $20 to do my weekly grocery shopping on the way home, as is my routine. I walked about ten minutes until a bus slows down beside me: "D'you want a ride to Raeward Fresh?" It's the bus I always catch so of course he knows where I'm going, and even when I say I don't have my bus card with me he says to hop in. (The bus company doesn't happen to lose any money by this, because if one travels to and from work Monday-Friday as I do, the weekend is free.)

So he drops me off right outside the shop (instead of at the bus-stop), and there I see a colleague from another department at work. Nectarines are on special so I get some for me and she gets some for her cockatoo, then we go our separate ways through the shop but end up getting to the checkout at the same time. (I've kept a running guesstimate of a tally and tell my favourite checkout girl, "If this isn't less than $20 then I'll have to leave the apples" -- it comes to $19.80.) And my colleague offers me a lift the rest of the way home which, weighed down with groceries, I gratefully accept.

To do tomorrow: get a new spare key made. And figure out somewhere else to put it, though I really liked the last place. :-(
zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
Last night the nice warm flames in my gas fire stopped. It was nearly bedtime anyway so I resolved to wait until today to switch the tanks over and phone the gas company.

This evening I got home, flicked the switch from one tank to another, and phoned the company to order a new tank. Turned the gas fire on and it flamed happily for about, oh, 1 minute.

On closer inspection it appears that both tanks are empty.

(I swear I've never switched the tanks over without phoning for a new bottle.)

Also it's a long weekend and I don't know if they deliver on Saturdays.

At least I do have a portable electric heater; and, for that matter, a night-store heater that I don't usually use because it cunningly releases all its heat during the day when I'm not *here*, but that will work for the weekend. So I won't freeze. But... gah!

(Now, if I phone the gas company's automated ordering system and tell it I want 1 gas tank, will it give me that in addition to or instead of the 1 gas tank I've already ordered? I may have to go to bed early tonight so I can get up in the morning instead of sleeping in, and phone a real person if they chance to have such a thing of a Saturday morning.)

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zeborah: Map of New Zealand with a zebra salient (Default)
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