Google launches a YouTube video to warn teens on how to control privacy and safely use Buzz.
Larry Magid is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He's been writing and speaking about Internet safety since he wrote Internet safety guide "Child Safety on the Information Highway" in 1994. He is co-director of ConnectSafely.org, founder of SafeKids.com and SafeTeens.com, and a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Larry's technology analysis and commentary can be heard on CBS News and CBS affiliates, and read on CBSNews.com. He also writes a personal-tech column for the San Jose Mercury News. You can e-mail Larry.
There was quite a privacy backlash after Google announced Buzz in February. The day it was announced, I was one of many who raised questions about both the privacy and safety implications of the service, including the fact that it is possible to use Buzz to disclose your location from a GPS-enabled mobile device. CNET's Molly Wood was less charitable, calling Buzz a "privacy nightmare."
On Monday, the company announced plans to start reminding users to reconfirm their privacy settings.
Now the company is turning its attention to teenagers, with a new YouTube video (scroll down to watch it) to help young users better understand how to protect their privacy and use Buzz safely. Scott Rubin, Google's head of planning, public policy and communications, said in an e-mail that the company "has been hard at work making improvements to the product and thinking about how to give users even more control over their experience on Buzz, including teenagers who may not share adult concepts of public versus nonpublic sharing."
The video explains that, like all Google products, "you have to be at least 13 to use Buzz" and tells teens to keep five tips in mind "to help you control your experience."
1. Keep your private information private. Posting publicly on the Web means that whatever you post is visible to all of your followers. It shows up on your public Google profile and may appear in Google search results.
2. Know who's following you. Buzz sends a notification after someone starts following you and you can chose to block them. If you block someone Buzz doesn't send them a message so they won't necessarily know they've been blocked.
3. Control your Google profile. Before you can post on Buzz, you have to set up a public profile, but you don't have to share anything more than your first and last name on the profile. The video reminds you that if you have a photo associated with your Gmail account, "you can chose to use this use this as your profile photo as well" but you can change or remove the photo if you don't want it to be public. You can also elect whether you want your list of followers to show up publicly on your profile.
4. Manage posts and comments. Teens are reminded that they can edit and delete their own posts and delete any comments on your posts and you can remove comments you've made on other people's posts.
5. Know how to turn it off. If you no longer want to use Buzz, you can disable it from Gmail settings. You can also hide Buzz in Gmail but still get it on your phone.
Disclosure: Google is one of several companies that provides support to ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that I help run.