Posts tagged ‘Blogger’

Google might have signed you up to stuff you never asked for


I was getting annoyed at Google for the services it counts as part of my ‘products’, but that was minor compared with what Harriet Jacobs has gone through with Google’s new Buzz service—which appeared to have put her personal safety in jeopardy (hat tip to Simon Green).
   From what I can tell, Buzz shares, by default, your information with your Gmail’s most frequent contacts. In Harriet’s case, this included her abusive ex-husband, who emails her a lot. All of a sudden, she feared that everything that was in her Reader account was being shared with her ex.
   She never made a Google profile, never signed up to Buzz, and never had her Reader settings on public. In fact, in the comments was this response from Harriet (sic):

I opted out of Buzz when it arrived, but it still auto-followed.
   My “Contact” list only lists my boyfriend and mother as people who are approved for anything. Everybody else is on a separate list. This has always been the case. They were still auto-followed.
   I never approved connecting ANY of my sites to Buzz. Reader and Picasa were connected automatically, without my permission or knowledge. My Reader and Picasa were private, by the way, but followers still showed up on my Reader (according to Google now, they couldn’t read anything, but they were still there).
   I never created a Google profile. I checked that again this morning to make sure I wasn’t crazy, and I’m not. I never created a Google profile, specifically because I am so concerned with my privacy.
   So! All future comments about, “Turn Buzz off,” “Make your stuff private,” “Don’t approve contacts,” “Make your profile private,” “You shouldn’t have approved Buzz in the first place” are to be deleted, because I DID ALL THOSE THINGS.

   Google has since replied to Harriet to address some of her concerns. Todd Jackson, product manager for Buzz, wrote, inter alia:

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.

   But, while Harriet is grateful that Todd responded to her concerns, she rightly points out (with my emphasis):

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.

   Makes my issue with Google really, really minor. About this time last night, before I knew of Harriet’s case, I was prepared to complain about what was in my Google account settings:

As you have figured out, these are, according to Google, the stuff I use from the company. You can find this page by going to the Google home page and, provided you are logged in, via the ‘Settings’ link in the top right-hand corner. The down arrow has a link for ‘Google Account settings’.
   The products are divided into two sections: those I am supposedly currently using, and those that I am not but might like to try.
   This is where it gets annoying.
   The big one that jumped out at me a month ago (this screen shot is from today) was Web History. When Google announced there would be a Web History service, I specifically opted out of it. I was very surprised last month to find it was turned on. I had to opt out again. As a result, this dropped down to the ‘Try something new’ category.
   I opted out of iGoogle some years ago, and it’s also in ‘Try something new’. That was back when opting out of stuff on Google worked.
   But that leaves some oddities up above. In alphabetical order:

AdSense. I cancelled this last month after getting very fed up with Google’s behaviour elsewhere—and the six months’ damage to its brand from Blogger’s poor and, later, obstructive, support. Oh, and it was crap. No monies are outstanding. As far as I can tell, I am not on AdSense, yet it remains in the products I am “currently using”;
Notebook. Never signed up for it; have no idea what it’s doing there. I cannot opt out of it;
Picasa Web Albums. I was shocked to find half a dozen images in there that I never uploaded into it. They were mine, and they had come from my Blogger profile. As far as I knew, when I uploaded those photographs in the early 2000s, they were not being put on to Picasa. In fact, these photographs predate the opening of my Picasa account by many years. Nevertheless, I have deleted everything from it now. Picasa only exists in this category as friends have shared their albums with me;
Reader. Never signed up for it, and was surprised to find a dozen blogs in there that I supposedly follow (which, again, came via Blogger—I was never told that following blogs would open a Reader account and have everything stuck into it), and even a follower. I have deleted everything from it now. There is no way to opt out of it. One friend has told me that I have Reader as a default for a Google user. But I don’t want it and am unlikely to ever want it, so why can’t I opt out of it?;
SketchUp. I did sign up for it via Google Earth, but it was called something else. Whatever the case, I can’t leave;
Subscribed Links. Never signed up for it, and cannot leave;
Talk. Never signed up for it, and cannot leave it. The same friend informed me that I would have got this via Gmail. But, as you can see above, I don’t have a Gmail account. Given the way Google treats people and our privacy, I am unlikely to ever want a Gmail account;
Wave. I was sent an invitation to it, and added one friend. However, as I am deleting unwanted services on Google, I am trying to rid myself of Wave, too. No such luck: despite deleting my two friends, you can’t leave this, either.

There are a few other things I don’t use personally, but signed up to them to help clients and colleagues (e.g. Google Docs—given the way Google has behaved, I am never going to create any Docs myself. Why bother, when WordPerfect is perfectly adequate?).
   I’ve been taking things out of the Google Dashboard, too. Sooner or later, I expect my Blogger profile to disappear as I shut down everything relating to that service. It was in the Dashboard that I found I had a Reader follower, whom I never approved (he’s not a bad person, it’s just that I see no point of having a follower for a service I never signed up for, and never added anything to with my knowledge).
   If you care about your privacy, I recommend you go in to your Google account settings and check what you might have been signed up to without your knowledge. As for asking for support on this stuff, forget it. I’m pretty sick of the Google support forums after months on them on a single issue—and it’s going to be quicker for us to sort these things out ourselves.

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And it’s back again


When the Social Media Consortium disappeared again, we panicked and alerted Rick Klau at Google. Once again, Rick was as good as his word and found out there had been an accidental deletion.
   What impresses me about him—as if I wasn’t already impressed—is his quick action. He must have other matters to deal with, yet he responds within minutes and actions things soon after.
   Initially, the newly restored blog was not appearing in the Dashboard, but that has now been remedied.
   Once again: thank you, Rick.

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That was quick: Social Media Consortium disappears again


Well, readers, the Social Media Consortium blog (the one that came back a few days ago) has disappeared again.
   Rick Klau, please help … (An email has been written to Mr Klau. Hopefully, he’s at work this weekend or is checking his messages.)

PS.: Less than five minutes later, Rick replied, and is looking into it.—JY

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Google’s Rick Klau restores Social Media Consortium


All it takes is finding the right bloke and hoping they would do the right thing.
   At the end of the day, that was the lesson in getting Vincent Wright’s Social Media Consortium blog restored.
   Yesterday, Josh Forde Tweeted me about an article he had read, where John Hempton’s Blogspot-hosted blog had been removed by Google. In the comments, a Blogger manager, Rick Klau, responded. I wrote to Rick on Josh’s suggestion.
   Today, Rick responded to say he had restored the blog. He also privately gave us some advice on what got the blog picked up by Google in the first place and why it might not have been restored in those ‘two business day’ reviews.
   It was, of course, the first we have heard of the reasons, and he has a point. At Rick’s request, Vincent and I have promised not to share that publicly.
   The blog was temporarily removed again as the bot picked it up, but Rick has now whitelisted it so we can begin posting again, at long last.
   It’s been a six-month battle but we’ve finally got there.
   I still think Google’s procedure needs some work. The way we were spoken to on the forums was unacceptable, as was the obstruction and even deletion of evidence.
   However, Rick’s actions have restored a bit of our faith. It’s good that the people actually working inside for Google can tell who the good guys are and have some horse sense.
   What Rick also did right was to be accessible, and he kept his word not only to us but to other bloggers.
   His emails to us were punctual, and on that note he kicks my ass given how long I can take to get back to people.
   So, a big thank-you to Rick Klau—and I look forward to seeing more posts over at the newly restored Social Media Consortium.

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What we needed was our own Felix Salmon


Image by, isn’t it? If you happen to have a Blogger blog that was wrongly deleted, and one of your readers is Felix Salmon of Reuter, then of course Google is going to come to your rescue within a day. (The link, and an important detail below, was found by Josh Forde and Tweeted to me earlier today.)
   There’s good criticism from Mr Salmon here on Google’s policy as well as other examples of the company’s broken promises in the comments.
   Rick Klau, one of the Blogger managers, put his address in the comments asking one disgruntled blogger to contact him, and to get his site restored.
   I’ve now written to Mr Klau, too, about Vincent Wright’s Social Media Consortium and the “service” Google has provided us to date. We shall see if he, and his company, are being sincere.
   If I get no satisfaction, then we might conclude that there’s one rule for those who manage to get the profile of a Reuter editor (Felix, we miss Portfolio), and another rule for everyone else.

PS.: On the afternoon of January 6 NZDT, Rick Klau reinstated and whitelisted Vincent’s blog. Thank you, Rick—so glad we finally got the definitive word from Google!

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