Google Buzz and Public Search Results

By James Kwak

Some law school friends and I had trouble figuring this out two nights ago when Buzz was apparently rolled out, so I thought this might be helpful. I think I got it right, but no guarantees. Note that this post is about including your profile in public search results; there is another more important privacy issue discussed here.

In the process of using Buzz, at various points Google asks you to create a public profile. The Edit Profile screen looks like this:

If you uncheck the upper-right box, then your profile will not be included in public search results. When you save your edited profile, you’ll get a message including this text: “Your profile is currently not findable via search on Google because we don’t have permission to display your name.” Sounds good — except the next time you try to comment on anything on Buzz, you will get a dialog box saying “How do you want to appear to others?” In order to successfully comment, you have to click the “Save profile and continue” button.

The next time you look at your profile, you’ll notice that that upper-right box — “Display my full name so I can be found in search” — is now checked. That’s what happened when you clicked “Save profile and continue.” So it seems like in order to use Buzz, you have to have a public profile.

However, there seems to be a loophole. My profile contains only my first name, last name, nickname, and photo. (OK, my late dog’s photo.) When I save my profile, even with the upper-right box checked, I get this message: “Your profile is not yet eligible to be featured in Google search results.To have your profile featured, add more information about yourself.” So it seems like you can use Buzz (although I’m still not sure why I would) and keep your profile out of Google search results, simply by not providing much information about yourself.

Your mileage may vary.

14 responses to “Google Buzz and Public Search Results

  1. markets.aurelius

    Thanks for the head’s up.

  2. I first read the headline as “Good Buzz,” and thought… someone has Kwak’d up trying to maintain equanimity as the world burns.

  3. Why would anybody want to participate in Google’s data mining business without being paid for it?

  4. The rise of Google raises questions without clear answers. On the one hand developments such as this http://www.google.com/appserve/fiberrfi could hold out terrific advantages in many areas and offer a boost to remote working, and much more.

    Then one considers just how much data Google are able to interconnect and one just prays that it is never put to any use that constitutes an attack of basic freedoms – the sort of thing that China dabbles with.

    But, in the end, the ability to connect in many and varied ways probably is a positive development – certainly Facebook has been a fun experience.

    And, of course, those of us who are active Bloggers are way too far down the line to start worrying about networking tools such as Buzz! Will be very interesting to see whether Buzz carves out a niche in the social media world – I suspect it will.

  5. And an interesting update http://www.informationweek.com/news/security/app-security/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=222900241 from which is quoted:

    “Google on Thursday declared Buzz a success while simultaneously announcing several changes to enhance the privacy of Buzz users amid a growing chorus of complaints.

    Tens of millions of people have experimented with Buzz, the company said, resulting in over 9 million posts and comments. It also said that it was seeing 200 Buzz posts per minute coming in from mobile phones.”

  6. your profile is never automatically visible to search engines and people on the web. Your name, however, is available to people using Gmail– but of course there are going to be several people with your name.

    This does not concern me.

  7. My Google status is that I am signed up for the Reader and search. I tried to get a Gmail account, but you HAVE to have a mobile phone and be willing to give your phone number to Google.

    My Yahoo email account doesn’t request my mobile phone number, so why does Google? I think that Google is agressively trying to recruit a young, internet and mobile phone dependent demographic into its Buzz mwmber base. At 63, I guess that I have missed the wave of Web 2.0 and just don’t get it.

    I use the AARP forum (you could’ve guessed, right?) and the Google Reader to keep up with public affairs oriented blogs like yours. I can take or leave the rest of it. My four year old granddaughter will probably soon be the internet/cellphone guru in the family!

  8. Charles Sullivan

    “But, in the end, the ability to connect in many and varied ways probably is a positive development – certainly Facebook has been a fun experience.”

    I am a lawyer with 45 years experience in real estate and lendng. You should know, if you do not already, that the presence of social networking sites on the internet has become a fruitful field of research by law enforcement and credit providers. If you apply for a loan – real estate or car loan, possibly educational and other such, lenders are, with increasing frequency, searching facebook and such sites to determine if the disclosures they find are consonant with your application. Also, who are your friends and followers, and do they evidence traits which make you a bad risk. A friend of mine who is in local law enforcement will not permit his kids to have a facebook site. Be VERY careful.

  9. Charles, somehow I’m not surprised to read what you wrote – it would have been an obvious use (misuse?) of social media sites by the authorities for some time.

    This type of research has always been possible (witness Nazi Germany in the 30s) but, granted, web technology makes it easier.

    In the end, if one is to be judged by one’s ‘trail’ and by one’s associates, then so be it.

    But your warning is well promoted.

  10. “but of course there are going to be several people with your name.”

    Well will all the other Paul Handovers please make themselves known!

  11. I have a gmail account and do not own a mobile/cell phone.

  12. I also have a gmail account without cell/mobile.

  13. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/13/technology/internet/13google.html?em

    This is a pretty complete article from yesterday. Googles lack of a check on the consequences of their
    decisions is startling to me. The most severe repercussion is the possibility of people losing their lives over this mistake. Another article before the times had stated that besides stalkers and ex’s, there were issues with activists from Iran being outed and Journalist confidants revealed, not to mention issues for Chinese dissadents.

  14. The ACLU just sent me something Google is doing that seems more dark. Seems like they are in negotiations with the NSA to, for money, share their information with them.

    What do you have more on that Front?