Google has taken another pass at addressing privacy concerns over its new Buzz service. The big change involves the autofollowing feature that made lists of Buzz users’ most-contacted e-mail acquaintances public: The following is no longer quite so automated. Instead, Google will show new Buzz users a suggested list of people to follow, allowing users to follow all of them, some of them, or none of them.
I haven’t seen the revised Buzz startup process in action yet, but judging from the above screenshot, I’m not sure that Google’s done everything in its power to ensure that nobody will be startled by the contents of their public list of followers. Google still seems to pre-select people to follow rather than making you check them off yourself one by one. And it doesn’t explain on this screen that the list of people you follow will be public unless you suppress it.
Still, this is close to the solution I suggested in a post yesterday: Making the whole follow-your-friends process optional. The company says it’s also ending Buzz’s initial practice of automatically linking to activities in users’ Google Reader and Picasa accounts; from now on, you’ll have to turn on these options. And it’s adding a Buzz tab to Gmail’s settings to make it easier to tweak Buzz-related options.
It’s good to see Google prove so willing to perform major surgery to a new service so quickly. I’m not sure if this will quell all reasonable concerns about Buzz, but I hope so: The service is both promising and full of other quirks which I’d love to see Google get to work addressing.