Is Gmail Spyware?

Is Gmail Spyware?

Perhaps you have seen the recent buzz around Google Buzz. The fact is that Google has decided that anything it knows about you it is free to share with the world at its discretion and not only do you not need to be told, but if you say no they will say yes for you.

Perhaps you have seen the recent buzz around Google Buzz. The fact is that Google has decided that anything it knows about you it is free to share with the world at its discretion and not only do you not need to be told, but if you say no they will say yes for you.

Perhaps you have seen the recent buzz around Google Buzz. The fact is that Google has decided that anything it knows about you it is free to share with the world at its discretion and not only do you not need to be told, but if you say no they will say yes for you.

As I went to log into my Gmail account today I was greeted with a screen encouraging me to try out Google Buzz. I choose what Google displayed as a “No” response and then found that in Gmail Buzz was there AND enabled. Not having a Google profile is what prevented Google from automatically sharing information that I did not choose to have shared.

I would recommend that if you have a Google profile you delete it immediately, unless you want no control over your privacy. If you have a Gmail account and don’t want to broadcast to the world who you chat with and email the most, then when you log into Gmail, immediate scroll to the bottom of the page and turn off Buzz.

It appears there is no mechanism to only allow people you approve to start following you. The Gmail blog says you can block a user once they start following you. How about prompting you that someone wants to follow you and let you decide before, rather than after.

On the Gmail blog Google states “We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience with user transparency and control top of mind.”

I recommend you avoid Buzz until their user transparency is out of alpha and well into beta.

It is past time for Google to concisely explain exactly what happens when you enable Buzz and what the ramifications are. Perhaps they should republish http://news.cnet.com/8301-31322_3-10451428-256.html as a standard introduction to Buzz. Google should then aggressively suggest reading http://www.pcworld.com/article/189124/google_buzz_a_privacy_checklist.html for important information about Buzz.  Finally Google should prominently tell you that this is what Buzz means. (Caution, link contains a 4 letter word starting with F)

Yes, I think Google is going to be a very bad influence on the NSA.

Time for a little disclaimer. These views are mine and not necessarily shared by ESET or any other ESET employees.

Randy Abrams
Director of Technical Education

Discussion