Google is making more changes to its new Google Buzz service after users complained that it had terrible default privacy controls and publicly exposed too much of their private information, essentially a list of who they regularly email and IM with.
In a blog post today, Google product manager Todd Jackson apologized for the hitches and admitted that Google would be making several changes to Buzz as a result of the privacy outcry.
- Starting this week, Google will stop auto-following the people you regularly email and chat with, but will instead suggest that you follow these people when you first start using Buzz. You’ll be shown a bunch of faces and checkboxes to make sure you’re really interested in following these people. This is a good change, and will give you a chance to make sure that you don’t follow anyone you don’t want to be associated with. But it would be even better if the faces were NOT checked by default, to make sure people who shoot through dialog boxes without reading them — probably much of the general public — are better protected.
- It will also roll this box out to existing users to make sure they’re interested in following all the people they’re already following.
- Buzz “will no longer connect your public Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader shared items automatically.”
- Google is adding a new “Buzz” tab to your Gmail settings so you can disable it or hide it from Gmail.
Google did NOT make one specific change that some people may still be upset about — Google Buzz will still show your follower/following lists publicly by default, and you must still manually make these private.
Having these lists public by default is no doubt better for Google, and may be better for most users. Browsing your friends’ follower lists are a great way to find new people to follow. And admittedly, these lists will be less potentially damaging now that new users will be given more information about the “following” process and won’t be auto-following anyone.
But while Google Buzz is in some senses a social network, where follower lists are almost always public, it’s still primarily an attachment to peoples’ email accounts — for which people have serious privacy expectations.
If Google were seriously foremost interested in protecting peoples’ privacy, follower lists would be private by default.