Google Responds to Buzz Privacy Issues. Again

By  |  Saturday, February 13, 2010 at 11:27 pm

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.

 
15 Comments


Read more: , ,

7 Comments For This Post

  1. Tech Says:

    The privacy fix had to be done. Too many people were complaining about it.

  2. Alden Says:

    The issue I find is that my child got on Buzz. Now I can read the chats that he had with his friends. He is just 10 years old. I found out his private thoughts that he had only shared with his friends. Then I realized I can read and learn about what his friends are talking about or thinking about. Then I realized, if I were a sick person, I could follow in public or in hiding other children. If one of the other parent’s happened to be a sick individual, my son could be stalked too. It is a matter of time before my daughter gets on. One might say parents need to supervise or limit the children’s use of internet. I had to give my son a talk about privacy today and showed him what I saw. This is not about adults making their own decisions. It is about children who don’t know what they are doing being protected as well. I bet kids don’t read contracts or fine print. Most adults don’t. Automating is fine to a certain point, but exposing what was once a private conversation with a few of your friends is wrong… and I feel it is not right that I can read what young boys and girls are doing… and they don’t even know me and they don’t know I am able to read or watch them anytime I wish.

  3. Alan Ralph Says:

    I’ve turned off Buzz now. I just don’t see any compelling reason to use it. Almost all of my friends are on Facebook now, and the few that are also on Buzz are posting stuff that I’ve already seen. I’ve gotten loads of total strangers following me, in spite of the fact that I’ve not actually posted anything yet. Had to remove the usual suspects (Louis Gray, Robert Scoble, etc.) as they just drown out anything else on there. It looks a bit like Friendfeed, which I’ve used in the past, but has none of the filtering controls. The whole thing seems to be like something that was lashed together by a couple of Google engineers and pushed through by sympathetic managers, and not a proper project like Wave or Google Maps.

  4. Esteban Says:

    I too defriended everyone and disabled the service from my GMail. I don’t mind Google working on a social network, but I want it to be the kind of thing that I sign up for willingly, not the kind of thing that’s shoved down my throat.

  5. Praveen B Says:

    Whats the big issue here? Buzz does have a setting where you can choose to keep whom you are following as private. Whats the hoopla about then. Twitter does not even do that.

  6. phil28 Says:

    Google is now to breech of privacy as Toyota is to unintended acceleration!

    This was a huge break of trust by Google, worse than nearly anything they or other mainstream companies has ever done. They crossed over the line, no make that leaped far over the line, exposing hundreds of thousands of gmail users without their permission. All of a sudden I find I’m being followed by people I don’t know or never gave permission. Creepy!

    And it’s still not obvious how to opt out. Does clicking that tiny link at the bottom, once you find it, really opt you out? Some say no. I’m seriously considering finding another email service.

  7. Muay Thai Says:

    Yea, at least they listened to us. Muay Thai Combinations | Muay Thai Kick | Martial Arts for Children

8 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Building Something New? Don’t Forget the Off Button | Exectweets Says:

    [...] always shared by users–some recent examples include the interface changes to Facebook and the privacy flap over Google’s Buzz. In the former case, the result was user confusion and frustration more than anything [...]

  2. Google Wave Opens Up, Finally Says:

    [...] And then not a lot happened. The service stayed in private beta. It was a hot ticket for awhile, but a running gag quickly developed: “Hey, I got into Google Wave–now what?” References to chirping crickets were common. After a while, people stopped talking about Wave much, period. The world moved on to other subjects–like the vaguely Wavelike Google Buzz. [...]

  3. A Few Observations About Gmail’s New Phone Feature Says:

    [...] new free voice calling feature over the past couple of days. For a while, I thought that the Google Buzz blowup proved it was a bad idea to introduce non-e-mail features into Gmail, period. Now I now that if [...]

  4. A Few Observations About Gmail’s New Phone Feature « gamestopmafia.com Says:

    [...] new free voice calling feature over the past couple of days. For a while, I thought that the Google Buzz blowup proved it was a bad idea to introduce non-e-mail features into Gmail, period. Now I now that if [...]

  5. This Dumb Year: The 57 Lamest Tech Moments of 2010 Says:

    [...] don’t want their contacts to be made social or public. The company moves quickly but it takes several passes of fixes before the controversy dies down. And even then, Buzz never quite seems to catch [...]

  6. This Dumb Year: The 57 Lamest Tech Moments of 2010 | Hot Electronics Trends Says:

    [...] who don’t want their contacts to be made social or public. The company moves quickly but it takes several passes of fixes before the controversy dies down. And even then, Buzz never quite seems to catch [...]

  7. FTC Smacks Down Google Over Privacy Issues With Buzz Says:

    [...] Commission over its Google Buzz social network, an issue that has been haunting the search giant for well over a year. The FTC had accused it of using “deceptive tactics” and violating its own privacy [...]

  8. Google Buzz Buzzes Off Says:

    [...] caught on, including Buzz, its 2010 stab at competing with Twitter. Buzz is famous mostly for the immediate controversy over its privacy practices; for a service built right into Gmail, it gained amazingly little traction. And now Google+ does [...]