After Outcry, Google Revamps Buzz Networking Application

Google apologized on Saturday, saying it has made several changes to its new social-networking application Buzz to allay privacy concerns.

Google's Buzz, which debuted last week, is closely entwined with its Gmail service. The company leveraged a person's address book contacts to create an immediate social network for Buzz, which is designed to let people post and share content in a fashion similar to Facebook or Twitter.

Buzz automatically followed some of a person's contacts, which "led people to think that Buzz had automatically displayed the people they were following to the world before they created a profile," wrote Todd Jackson, a Google product manager.

The feature drew fire since it was viewed as making it easier to determine who a person contacts frequently using Gmail.

"The underlying issue is that your email and chat contacts are not necessarily people you want to advertise as friends via a public social network," wrote Kurt Opsahl, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on Friday.

At that time, Google did offer an option to hide users' followers and those they're following, but people had to opt out, and they may not have realized how they were publicly linked to other users.

Buzz's default mode has now been modified to merely suggest contacts who would be good to follow rather than selecting people to follow automatically.

Over the next two weeks or so, Google said Buzz will display a new menu that will allow existing users to review who they are following. On the "edit profile" page, people can also opt to not share lists of who they are following and their own followers, Jackson wrote.

In other changes, Buzz will no longer automatically connect to a person's content on the Picasa photo service and Google Reader. Google only shared items that users had already given permission for on both services, but users weren't happy with the linkage.

Lastly, Google has added a link to allow users to either hide Buzz or shut it off completely. Users can go to the "Settings" tab. As of Monday morning, the Buzz tab now appears at the bottom of the page by "Google mail view," which also lets people turn off the Gmail chat.

"We're very sorry for the concern we've caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback," Jackson wrote.

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