Google Buzz tweaked amid privacy complaints

February 17, 2010 – Facing a slew of privacy complaints, Google has made changes to Google Buzz, the new social networking tool it added this week to its free email service Gmail.

“There’s been concern from some people who thought their contacts were being made public without their knowledge,” Gmail and Google Buzz product manager Todd Jackson said in a blog post.

“Others felt they had too little control over who could follow them and were upset that they lacked the ability to block people who didn’t yet have public profiles from following them,” Jackson said.

Among the concerns aired in technology blogs and elsewhere was that Google Buzz was taking a user’s Gmail contacts and automatically adding them to their public Buzz social network.

GOOGLE_ADDRESS_803046620.jpgA number of commentators noted that they did not necessarily want their email contacts made public like Facebook friends.

Jackson said Gmail users will now have to create a Google Buzz public profile and will be notified that “lists of people you follow and the people following you will be displayed on your public profile.”

“You can view, edit and even hide these lists,” Jackson said. “The lists of your followers/people you follow are not made public on your profile until after you go through this profile creation step.”

Jackson said Google was also giving users the ability to block anyone following their account.

The Google product manager said “tens of millions” of people have used Buzz since it was launched Tuesday, “creating over nine million posts and comments.”

“It’s still early, and we have a long list of improvements on the way. We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience, with user transparency and control top of mind,” he said.

Google Buzz allows Gmail users to get updates about what friends are doing online and offers ways to share video, photos and other digitized snippets.

Google Buzz has been described by some technology analysts as a direct challenge by Google to social networking stars Facebook and Twitter.