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'Buzz'-Kill for Privacy Advocates

Buzz, Google’s answer to Twitter, is getting a lot of bad looks from privacy advocates. The service, which allows users to share short messages or “tweets” (buzzers?) with a network of friends, is faulted for an alleged invasion of privacy that uses e-mail data to automatically create a preconfigured friends list.

The service, which employs frequency of e-mail communications to determine whether users are friends or not, runs into an obvious problem when one is automatically friended with a mistress, physician or even that Russian spy you’ve been funneling information to for months. –JCL

The New York Times:

When Google introduced Buzz — its answer to Facebook and Twitter — it hoped to get the service off to a fast start. New users of Buzz, which was added to Gmail on Tuesday, found themselves with a ready-made network of friends automatically selected by the company based on the people that each user communicated with most frequently through Google’s e-mail and chat services.

But what Google viewed as an obvious shortcut stirred up a beehive of angry critics. Many users bristled at what they considered an invasion of privacy, and they faulted the company for failing to ask permission before sharing a person’s Buzz contacts with a broad audience. For the last three days, Google has faced a firestorm of criticism on blogs and Web sites, and it has already been forced to alter some features of the service.

E-mail, it turns out, can hold many secrets, from the names of personal physicians and illicit lovers to the identities of whistle-blowers and antigovernment activists. And Google, so recently a hero to many people for threatening to leave China after hacking attempts against the Gmail accounts of human rights activists, now finds itself being pilloried as a clumsy violator of privacy.

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