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Google Alters Buzz to Tackle Privacy Flaws | USsPost.com

February 14, 2010 by USA Post 

Google Alters Buzz to Tackle Privacy FlawsGoogle Alters Buzz to Tackle Privacy Flaws | USsPost.com:Google moved quickly to contain a firestorm of criticism over Buzz, its new social network, taking the unusual step of announcing changes to the product over the weekend to address privacy problems.

Late Saturday, Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, wrote in a blog post that Google had decided to alter one of the most vehemently criticized features in Buzz: the ready-made circle of friends that Buzz gives new users based on their most frequent e-mail and chat contacts. Now, instead of automatically connecting people, Buzz merely suggests to new users a group of people that they may want to follow or want to be followed by.

Mr. Jackson, who said the auto-follow feature had been designed to make it easy to get started on Buzz, acknowledged the criticism that has been heaped on Google over the past few days.

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.

Starting this week, instead of an auto-follow model in which Buzz automatically sets you up to follow the people you email and chat with most, we’re moving to an auto-suggest model. You won’t be set up to follow anyone until you have reviewed the suggestions and clicked “Follow selected people and start using Buzz.”

Google will give users who have already signed up the same start-up screen as new users over the next two weeks, to give them a “second change to review and confirm” the people they are following.

Buzz will also no longer connect public Picasa albums and items users shared on Google Reader automatically, another feature that had been heavily criticized by some users and privacy advocates.

Finally, Google is creating a new Buzz tab in Gmail’s settings page that allows users to hide Buzz from Gmail completely. The page gives users the option to disable Buzz, deleting their posts and, importantly, removing their Google profile, which in many cases listed publicly a user’s circle of contacts in Buzz. The new feature could address concerns that turning off Buzz and removing a public profile was a multi-step process that confused many users and that some described as a game of whack-a-mole.

The changes that Google announced on Saturday will be implemented over the next few days.

Some critics of Buzz said the changes appeared to address the biggest privacy problems with the service.

“Turning off the auto-follow was a huge improvement, as is giving Buzz its own control panel area,” Danny Sullivan, a longtime Googleanlyst and the editor of SearchEngineLand, said in an e-mail message. “That was a real pain, trying to locate where all the settings were.”

Mr. Jackson closed his post with a dose of contrition.

We quickly realized that we didn’t get everything quite right. We’re very sorry for the concern we’ve caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback. We’ll continue to do so.

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