Google reacts to Buzz privacy outcry

Google has made significant changes to its new social-networking service Buzz, following complaints over its invasion of privacy.

Google reacts to Buzz privacy outcry

Buzz, which was only launched last week, has drawn huge criticism for automatically rifling through users’ Gmail contacts to find people to follow, and then displaying this list of followed friends publicly.

It has led to concern that people who use webmail for business or private matters – such as communicating with doctors or support groups, not to mention illicit affairs – would have their contacts automatically exposed.

Switch it off!

Find out how to turn Buzz off here

Google admits it got the balance between convenience and privacy wrong. “We wanted to make the getting started experience as quick and easy as possible, so that you wouldn’t have to manually peck out your social network from scratch,” Buzz product manager, Todd Jackson, explains on the Gmail blog.

“However, many people just wanted to check out Buzz and see if it would be useful to them, and were not happy that they were already set up to follow people. This created a great deal of concern and led people to think that Buzz had automatically displayed the people they were following to the world before they created a profile.”

Google will amend the start-up procedure so that Buzz only suggests people to follow, rather than automatically adding them to the list. Those who’ve already signed into Buzz will be presented with a screen that allows them to confirm they want to keep following their pre-selected contacts.

Photo albums switched off

Switching off the auto-follow isn’t the only concession Google is making. Users’ Picasa photo albums and Google Reader items won’t be included in their Buzz updates by default any more – users will have to specifically choose to share these items.

Turning Buzz off will also be made much easier, with the addition of a Buzz tab in the Gmail settings menu. ” From there, you’ll be able to hide Buzz from Gmail or disable it completely,” Jackson writes. “In addition, there will be a link to these settings from the initial start-up page so you can easily decide from the get go that you don’t want to use Buzz at all.”

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