Buzz + Latitude = A Minefield for Google

17 Comments

Google (s goog) is looking to integrate its Latitude and Buzz offerings, according to a story today in eWeek.com. Which means Buzz’s privacy problems may be about to get even bigger.

Google continues to draw flak from privacy advocates over Buzz, which launched last month. The company has scrambled to alter certain features and give users more control after some complained that their Gmail and Talk contacts were publicly released, and Google eventually admitted that the product had been rushed out the door.

Latitude, which launched last year, enables users to find friends and broadcast their whereabouts to others. Those aren’t revolutionary features, of course — Loopt and Useful Networks are just two that have gained some traction with similar friend-finding offerings. But Latitude’s tracking functionality is potentially more invasive than Buzz, which requires users to check in every time they want to update their location. And Google a few months ago sparked controversy by adding location alerts and history, features that inform users when their fellow Latitude friends are nearby and allowing users to see where they’ve been. (To its credit, Google wisely requires additional opt-ins for the new Latitude features.)

Integrating Latitude features with Buzz — which has millions of users — will further complicate a service that for some is already too confusing and who are likely to inadvertently broadcast their location information to Buzz-using friends even if Google does a good job of informing them that the two offerings sometimes work as one. Unless Google first makes Buzz much simpler, CEO Eric Schmidt will have a lot more opportunities to blame users for misunderstanding the service.

Related content from GigaOM Pro:

Location: The Epicenter of Mobile Innovation

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Doug88888

17 Comments

Nick

I just installed GMaps 4.0 for Windows Mobile. This morning I tested it out and realized that when I post a location tagged buzz, the post is automatically set to public visibility and I cannot find any way to change either the individual post’s visibility setting nor the default settings for mobile-originated buzz posts.
Google really needs to implement a unified settings page with tabs for all for its products/services, this is getting ridiculous.

Dave Levy

Easy there, slugger. Remember, Latitude is even more niche than, well, any other location-based network (I bet BrightKite has more registered users, but I haven’t done the research to back that up). Most importantly: the service doesn’t “track your location” unless you (a) register/opt-in (b) are logged-in on a device, desktop or mobile, and (c) allow it to save the history.

Furthermore, I don’t see how someone actually concerned with their privacy would sign-up in the first place thinking that it would not be indexed. The point of a location-based network is to share your location, no? If you want that to be private, why did you sign up?

Sanjay Maharaj

The intergration of the two makes sense but to your point it does need to fix what is wrong with buzz. I have not used buzz as it is indeed confusing and from what I saw it wa snot very user friendly which enhanced my user experience thus the reason I have not used buzz for now

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