Google Buzz's Privacy Tweaks: Good Start, Not Enough

Google Buzz got off to a rocky start this week with complaints over exposed Gmail contacts and other privacy issues, and Google has scrambled to fix them. In a blog post, Gmail and Google Buzz Product Manager Todd Jackson outline some changes that will make it easier for new Google Buzz users to control their privacy settings. Here's a rundown, along with more privacy suggestions -- as long as Google's in the mood to fix things.

Hiding Followers Made Simple

Previously, when creating a Google Profile within Google Buzz, it wasn't clear that your followers and people following you would be made public, exposing the people you communicate with most in Gmail. Google's changed that with a check box that reads "show the list of people in following and the people following me on my public profile." You can still edit this setting from within your Google Profile.

Easier to Block People

For some reason, Google Buzz didn't let you block people who hadn't created a public profile. Now, it's easy to block unwanted followers by clicking the "block" link next to their names when signing up. If you've signed up already, you can block followers that you're not following by clicking the "Options" link next to that person's name.

Those Without Profiles Separated

It's not a new option or setting, but Google Buzz now distinguishes followers who don't have a public profile in a separate section. If you're allowing your list of followers to be public, these people still won't show up until they've created a Google Profile themselves, and Google Buzz now makes that clear.

Not Enough

I'm glad Google made these changes, but that doesn't help the tens of millions of people who already signed up and exposed their list of follower

Artwork: Chip Taylor
s to the world. When you use Buzz, Google tells you that new followers will be able to see your public status updates. It should also say that the names of these people, and the people you're following, are visible in your public profile, provided you've created one. A way to control privacy settings directly from Google Buzz, and not just from Google Profile, would be helpful as well.

For that matter, Google must better explain Google Profile to new users, now that so many of them will be compelled to create profiles thanks to Buzz. For starters, Google should take a tip from Facebook -- seriously - and the ability to see how your profile looks to people who are and aren't following you. Let's hope the privacy changes Google has made to Buzz in response to user feedback aren't the last.

In the meantime, check out our privacy checklist for help on what you're hiding and showing to the world.

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