Google: we need to make Buzz better

Google has admitted that it hasn’t done a good enough job with the launch of its controversial social-networking service, Buzz.

Buzz has been roundly criticised for invading people’s privacy and barging its way into Gmail inboxes. Just a few days after its launch, Google made significant changes to the way the service worked, preventing it from auto-following people in your contacts list, for example.

Google Buzz product manager, Todd Jackson, admits the search giant has made a number of mistakes. In an interview with the BBC, he said the firm is “very, very sorry” for the upset it has caused users.

“If it becomes clear that people don’t think we’ve done enough, we’ll make more changes,” said Mr Jackson. “We know we need to improve things.”

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Google chief Eric Schmidt claims nobody was harmed by Buzz’s early privacy failings.

“I would say that we did not understand how to communicate Google Buzz and its privacy,” he said. “There was a lot of confusion when it came out on Tuesday, and people thought that somehow we were publishing their email addresses and private information, which was not true.”

“I think it was our fault that we did not communicate that fact very well, but the important thing is that no really bad stuff happens in the sense that nobody’s personal information was disclosed.”

Sufficient testing?

Buzz’s problems may stem from the fact that Google decided to test the service with internal employees only, instead of the wider user base afforded by its Trusted Tester program, which includes family and friends of Google workers.

“We’ve been testing Buzz internally at Google for a while,” Jackson said. “Of course, getting feedback from 20,000 Googlers isn’t quite the same as letting Gmail users play with Buzz in the wild.”

The company now has an engineering team dedicated to fixing the problems with Buzz, although Google admits that the privacy changes announced at the weekend will take time to filter through.

“We worked around the clock to make the code changes for these improvements; now we’re putting them through a full testing process to identify any bugs and translating them into 53 languages so they reach all Gmail users,” Jackson added.

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