Could Google Buzz Hit Privacy Roadblock On Mobile?

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Will the introduction of Buzz bring Google to another privacy roadblock? Some people aren't ready to trust an application that ties Facebook-like sharing features with email, especially when you consider that Google also added a geographic, location-based feature for the mobile phone.

Buzz pulls your profile from the profile you posted last year when the Mountain View, Calif., company introduced social features in the search engine.

As with most technology, people will need to take time to become familiar with new applications and features, as well as decide if location-based mobile applications just give away too much information on their whereabouts.

Google already has the built-in Gmail user base. Perhaps adoption rates for Buzz will follow.

Maybe it will attract the audience that Twitter has not been able to capture. College-age adults say their friends are on Facebook, not Twitter. They view Twitter as a creepy tool without privacy controls. And although Google has built privacy controls into Buzz, it's not clear yet whether Gmail users won't have the same thoughts toward the location-based services and sharing features built into Buzz. The only difference is, Google may attract the young adults that Twitter has turned off.



Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research, estimates the demographic profile of those who will use Buzz long-term are single male adults ages 16 to 23, which puts the count at between 2 million and 3 million people. "I doubt the average female will use Buzz, because many are more skeptical than men about these types of services," he says.

Google made three separate mobile announcements Tuesday related to Buzz: the ability to use Buzz from on iPhone or Android devices, shortcut app, and Buzz Layer on Google Maps.

Buzz for mobile allows you to tag your location with each entry. The nearby view shows all the public buzz nearby - even from those you don't follow.

Google co-founder Sergey Brin told people tuning in to a live presentation and Webcast Tuesday that the company is concerned about privacy and security because the mobile service gives people the ability to share geographic coordinates, but individuals must decide for themselves whether to share and post their location. The Google Buzz privacy policy goes into more details.

Forrester Analyst Augie Ray says some folks will likely keep an eye on privacy issues, but consumers, "in great numbers," have not expressed concerns. In fact, consumers are still willing to give up some of their privacy for free tools. Facebook and Google will have to closely monitor privacy to make sure they meet "expectations."

Go back to the Beacon debacle that Facebook faced. Ray says hundreds of millions of users weren't up in arms about it, but rather just a few key people observing Beacon and the legal concerns it raised.

Amielle Lake, chief executive officer at Tagga Media, which helps marketing and advertising agencies take campaigns mobile, doesn't think consumers will have privacy concerns as long as they have an opt-in option to share location-based information.

Buzz mobile features will increase the accuracy of ad targeting on mobile phones. "The more Google expands its platform capabilities to social via Buzz, while placing importance on making their social tools useful and easy for mobile, you can expect more people to use Google's social tools on the go," Lake says. "The more people use the service, the more targeting data will become available, which in turn will flow through to Google's targeting algorithms, creating better targeting opportunities that leverage behavior data and location information across mobile through social media platforms."

My reaction to the Buzz debut: Goggle seems to have thrown out its focus on simplicity. Not that the look of the Buzz tab appears crowded with information, but there are plenty of choices: to link to mobile applications, and tie the service to Picasa, Twitter, Google Reader, YouTube, Google Chat, Blogspot, and Flickr. And, dear Google, since some of the people you set me up to automatically follow are located in non-English-speaking countries, I need a translation tool to understand what they write without taking the text into another platform.

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