The fuck has officially been downgraded.
I had a big long post planned for you guys. Ohhhh, it was full of vitriol. It was also full of more information on exactly what happened between me and Buzz, because I got sick of repeating myself in the comments to well-meaning people who kept asking, “Couldn’t you just turn Buzz off?” It also had some general information about how it so happened that after an abusive marriage, I didn’t stop emailing my abuser right away (the answer is FEAR) and how he became a frequent contact (the answer is EMAILING ME TEN TIMES A DAY FOR MONTHS THAT FELT LIKE ETERNITY). I didn’t want to offer any of this up in defense of myself, because I do not think I have anything to defend. But one of the main purposes of this blog, for me, has been to share information about what an abusive relationship actually looks like, how it operates, common misunderstandings, etc. Now that so much of our communication and social interaction has been downloaded to the internet, abuse has a whole new forum in which to operate (and generate further misunderstandings and stereotypes and insults, such as “If you were really abused, you wouldn’t even be on the internet”, and yes, that’s an actual deleted comment) and I think it’s useful to bring attention to this big hidden world of abuse victims who still somehow, miraculously, have access to computers and use them sometimes for the things non-abuse victims (and abusers) use them for. I think that’s still an interesting conversation to have, and would maybe like to hear from you in the comments if you have some experience with navigating abuse and the use of technology.
But! Time moves awfully fast on the Internet. Today I was contacted by Nick Saint of Business Insider, who wanted to know if I would mind having my blog excerpted on an article he was writing about Buzz. I consider everything I write here to be public domain – it wouldn’t be on a public blog if I wanted to keep it private – so have a very permissive policy on having my writing reproduced elsewhere. Like I said, I have a partial motivation to help educate people on the Shit What Nobody Likes To Talk About, and I think that happens quicker and much more organically if I don’t put any stops on my blog getting around. Though it does cause headaches – I am not looking forward to moderating my comments the next week or so.
Anyway, Nick wrote his article. His article and other similar articles that had popped up started getting disseminated around the internet, and lo and behold, I get an email from Todd Jackson, product manager of Buzz. Todd started off by apologizing and assuring me that he was taking this very seriously. He said he would get back to me when he’d routed out the problems. Though the teeth-gnashing part of me still feels like I should have given him what-for, the rest of me knows he already got it; this article did what the internet is best at and made the rounds in a fast and scary way. I’m sure having Google’s corporate name, credentials, and brand next to the concept of “Putting Abuse Victims In Danger” was what-for enough. And while somebody at Google should have considered these privacy holes before launching Buzz, and while nobody at Google should have made Buzz automatic for all Gmail users (for which I might still leave Gmail), I can say I’m 100% certain that nobody at Google had any kind of intention to put anybody in danger. This was reckless, but not malevolent. Still, intentions don’t matter a whole lot when you put somebody in fear for their safety, which is why I still get riled up and want to go back and yell at Todd, but it’s more important to me to have him working on the problems than being reduced to tears because it somehow makes me feel better.
ANYWAY. Todd got back to me with two new privacy features, and some useful info for navigating Buzz, reproduced here for everybody else who is concerned about their accounts:
We took a closer look at the issues you reported and want to explain a few things as well as thank you for helping us discover two issues. We’re sorry that the product experience was extremely confusing, and we’re taking steps to fix it.
First, just to be clear: if your Reader shared items are “Protected,” no one except the people you’ve explicitly allowed to see your shared items have been able to see them. If your Reader shared items are public on the web, then they are discoverable by anyone. To make sure your Reader shared items are protected, visit this page in Reader.
You can block any unwanted followers in Google Buzz, regardless of whether or not you (or they) have a profile. This is one of the changes we made last night in response to feedback we’d received from others. Click the Buzz link in Gmail, click on “XX followers,” and then block them.
Your report helped us discover one bug and one product issue in Google Reader.
1) People you block in Buzz still appear as following you in Reader
If you block people in Buzz, they are still showing up as following you in Reader. This is a bug, and we’re working to fix it. Provided that your shared items are protected, only the people you’ve explicitly allowed to see them can do so — regardless of who appears to be following you in Reader.
2) No ability to block people from Reader
Until now, there has not been functionality to block people from following you in Google Reader. We’re adding this to the Reader interface.
We are making these two changes as fast as possible (we’re working the code changes now), and we’ll get them live in the next few days.
Lastly, it sounds like you don’t want to use Google Buzz or have any kind of public profile. To make sure you’ve turned Buzz off completely, please follow the steps here.
If any other areas of Reader or Buzz have issues like this, please let us know (feel free to send screenshots), and we’ll look into making further improvements. Again, we really appreciate your fast feedback.
So! There are still a lot of issues with Buzz, and beyond all the bugs, there’s still the fact that they opted me into it without my permission – in fact, explicitly against my permission. That’s not something I’m going to forgive or forget, and there’s still a broken trust that makes me hairy eyeball even the nicest thing Todd can say to me. But, according to Todd, I do not have to be concerned that my abusive ex-husband had access to messages I attached to shared items in my Reader. I have a lot of other “that’s a crappy way to run a program, Google!” kind of problems, but that’s all something for me to gripe over with friends while I research other email services. My biggest and most frantic concern was my physical safety, and I can now apparently lay that one to rest. For that, I’m very thankful that Todd took this issue seriously and corrected it quickly, and I’m thankful to Nick Saint and all the other people out there who blew this story up.
Now for some boring blog stuff:
I AM GOING TO BE SO SWAMPED WITH COMMENTS GUYS. If your shit isn’t getting through quickly, it’s because I’m not moving quickly, because this is all sorts of ruining my Valentine’s Day weekend. If your comment really doesn’t seem to come through quickly, or at all, it’s one of three things:
- Your comment requires some additional effort somehow – there are some comments that I want to respond to as soon as they appear publically, and if I don’t have the time to write a response, the comment doesn’t go through yet.
- Your comment requires some additional effort somehow, part 2 – if you have a story for one of the lists, that requires me opening up a WHOLE NOTHER WINDOW, and ugh. Sometimes I am just that irritable.
- You are well-intentioned but have no reading comprehension skills. As in, I say, “So when Google asked me if I wanted to participate in Buzz, I said no,” and then you say, “Well, if you didn’t want Buzz on your email, why did you opt-in?” Get it together, man.
- I couldn’t tell if you were a spambot or an honestly friendly person trying to offer me a tip. I’ve had a lot of nice people coming in to say, “Here’s an email provider you can use instead!”, and I have had a lot of spambots come in and say, “Here’s an email provider you can use instead!”
- You got lost in the shuffle somehow. I have a very draconian comments policy. Even if I agree with you completely, if you express your opinion in an insulting way, you don’t get through. With so many comments, it’s getting hard for me to tell who is responding to whom, so sometimes a comment looks perfectly innocuous until I realize it’s got an insult in it directed to somebody whose comment I approved this morning. I don’t like going back and re-moderating, so I err on the side of trashing. I don’t like putting a lot of time into this.
- You are a douche and have been banned. Even if you are a nice person inside! Especially if you are a nice person inside. “Nice” people act like douches, too, and they are attracted like magnets to deliver their douche opinions of raped and abused women and how they could have avoided being raped or abused. If you have started your comment with, “What did you expect…?” or “It’s your own fault if…” then you are, in fact, a douche with a heart of dumb.