Updated: Google went about privacy in a backward way with its Google Buzz social service, and the company is still backpedaling to make improvements to protect users’ privacy.
The company April 5 began displaying its belated confirmation page to Buzz users who began using the service before Google changed its setup process. First mover Buzz users will be asked to confirm or change their settings when they click the Buzz tab in Gmail.
Google launched Google Buzz within Gmail Feb. 9, allowing users to post messages and share photos, videos and links with fellow users.
But Buzz began automatically surfacing users’ Gmail contacts in their Google profiles, sparking outrage among users who opted in to use the service and discovered that their contacts were exposed.
This included a new confirmation page, pictured here, where Google Buzz suggested Gmail contacts for Buzz users to follow. Users had to agree to follow the people Buzz suggested.
Millions of users had already opted in to using Buzz by this time, so the existing users didn’t have the option to see this page from the start. Users had to go into their settings page later and manually remove people Buzz “made” them follow.
Now when the original batch of Buzz users access the service, they will be greeted with the confirmation setup page. Google Buzz Product Manager Todd Jackson explained in a blog post, provided by Google in advance to eWEEK:
“This page highlights your current Buzz settings and makes it easy to change anything you want. You can view and edit the people you’re following and the people following you, elect whether you want those lists appearing on your public Google profile, and modify any of the sites you have connected to Google Buzz, like Picasa, Google Reader, or Twitter. If everything looks good, you can confirm your Buzz set-up with a single click.”
Google also added a new comments collapsing feature, ideally to make the wildly threaded conversations on the service more manageable. These will be detailed in a Google Watch post later this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Buzz is nearly 2 months old, but the furor over it has not died, even it has dulled to a trickle.
Google won’t release Buzz user numbers, so it’s unclear if or whether fewer users are using Buzz because of this, but the Federal Trade Commission has been asked to look into whether the service violates consumers’ privacy rights.