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Shahrukh Khan wants to follow me on Google Buzz

Yesterday, Google Buzz notified me that Shahrukh Khan wants to follow me. Of course, given Buzz's default action, he already was following me, that is, until I blocked him!

Shahrukh Khan following me! Doesn't that seem absurd. When a celebrity tries to follow a nobody, the nobody has to be really pig-headed to allow the celebrity to follow him. I mean, it should be obvious to the nobody that the celebrity profile is actually fake.

I took some pains to check out Shahrukh Khan's profile. It had 130 odd followers and followed 1300. Weird, isn't it, considering that at the time of publishing this blog, he follows 49 and is followed by 798,768 people on twitter? Further, his profile had a single post on Buzz, a picture of him taken out of some glossy, with the text My new look for Don2

So, what obvious steps did I take besides blocking him? I also reported the profile to Google as a fake. It is obvious that someone is using some kind of a crawling script to follow random people. I wonder why? Does he hope to get some random titbits of people's lives? Does he possibly try and harvest email ids of people to spam them? Or does he just want to prove the gullibility of the people who allow him to follow them? I can only make a guess.

I have long wanted to write about the flawed privacy policy followed by Google, and the hazards of having a one-id-for-all-services service.

With Google Buzz, it was compulsory to have a public profile, which anyone on the net could see. Here, thankfully, Google gave us two options. Either have your username in your profile url, or have an obscure string/number hash in the profile url. It's a lose-lose both ways.

I have chosen the url of this blog the way it is, because it makes sense. I want my profile to make sense too. I want that anyone who wishes to see my profile can be given an easy-to-remember url. However, I do not want my email id to be my url. That would invite loads of spam.

Buzz makes crawling for email addresses easier. I can go to any random person's buzz, there check the list of people he is following, check if their profiles have a proper name or if their profiles are random numbers. This way, I have a reasonable amount of email ids using a crawling script. Or I could go in further, and check all the comments on a person's post by his followers/friends, and harvest their email ids too. By the idea of six degrees of separation, I could, in principle I would need a depth 6 recursion to go through everybody's profiles.

And again, there is the annoying policy of follow-by-default-unless-I-block-you. This means that people may end up following me without my knowledge. No harm there, you may say, considering that my Buzz is public on the web anyway, nevertheless, I consider it a breach of privacy.

People who have been following my blog for some time would have noticed that I have recently added a subscribe-via-email option. Why did it take me so long to put that option in? That is because my feeds are delivered via feedburner, and it has a nasty way of putting in my email id as the sender of the mail. This would mean that again, my email id would not be private any longer. This clearly was unacceptable.

It took me some time to contemplate whether or not to create a new id, so as to connect my feeds with that id. I figured that there would hardly be any subscribers to my blog, and those would generally be friends or people that I know. Nevertheless, I could not be too sure, and hence I ended up with two email ids and no subscribers-via-email.

If only Google would have allowed my email id to not be on the emails sent via my blog, they might have saved 7000 odd MB of disk space.

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