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Summary:

Just four days after launching Buzz, and two days after making some substantial changes to the service as a result of privacy concerns from users, Google has made another series of changes, including making the choice to follow someone opt-in rather than opt-out.

Google, just two days after making substantial changes to Buzz, and less than a week after the service first launched, has again altered the terms of its new chat platform to try and respond to privacy concerns from some vocal users. But will the latest changes be enough to dampen the flames of criticism and get people to focus on the service’s positive features instead of its negative ones? In his blog post about the latest changes, product manager Todd Jackson said the Google team had been “working around the clock” to respond to users’ concerns, including the auto-following of contacts from Gmail and GTalk, which some found disturbing. He wrote:

With Google Buzz, we wanted to make the getting started experience as quick and easy as possible, so that you wouldn’t have to manually peck out your social network from scratch. However, many people just wanted to check out Buzz and see if it would be useful to them, and were not happy that they were already set up to follow people.

Now, instead of auto-following everyone in your Gmail contacts, Buzz will simply show you a list of the contacts you are connected to whom you might want to follow, and then let you decide whether to do so or not. As more than one person has pointed out, this changes the service from an explicitly opt-out process to an opt-in one — which is likely to be a lot less intrusive for those who are sensitive about displaying their email contacts to the world.

In two other notable changes, Google will no longer connect your Picasa web albums and Google Reader shared items automatically (even though that just displayed content that was already public). And a new Buzz tab has been added to the settings in Gmail, which will allow users to either hide Buzz or disable it completely. This is no doubt a response to the numerous “How to disable Buzz” blog posts and discussion threads that sprang up in the wake of the service’s launch.

The fact that they need to make this many changes to Buzz may be further evidence that the members of the Google Buzz team are nerds at the dance, but at least they’re dancing as fast as they can — and they’re not shy about saying they need help learning the steps. But wouldn’t it have been easier if they asked people about this kind of stuff before they launched the product?

Related posts from GigaOM Pro:

Google Buzz’s True Home Is In the Enterprise

Post photo courtesy of Flickr user teo_ladodici

  1. Google continues to impress me with its rapid response times and willingness to admit where it made a mistake. Granted it should have paid more attention to these issues before launch but it is working hard to address them now that these issues are coming to light.

    Consider Facebook’s response to crticism about its series of privacy missteps. I didn’t see Facebook going to such lenghts to change its default privacy settings to private with the more public option becoming an opt-in.

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  2. This is a new experience for Google – they’ve had amazing successes, they’ve had things that didn’t pan out, but they’ve never before managed to crap the bad in public this badly. It’s going to make a lot of people rethink how much of their data Google really has, and whether “don’t be evil” is sufficient as a privacy policy.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Data Liberation Front sees their hitcount climb this week…

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  3. [...] Post By Google News Click Here For The Entire Article Review Google Cash [...]

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  4. Hey Mathew, love your conclusion:
    “But wouldn’t it have been easier if they asked people about this kind of stuff before they launched the product?”

    It’s a no brainer, but apparently a certain company is unable to think of that.

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    1. Thanks. Or maybe they just asked the wrong people :-)

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  5. If they disclosed their attempt they could blow their product launch. Furthermore, it’s not likely Google would receive a big response. First, everyone has other matters to tend to. Second – many people have to see first to care enough to engage or understand (in the first place). Kudos for their guts and big responsiveness.

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    1. Yes, I think they definitely deserve credit for responding so quickly.

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    2. So it’s best to rework the software multiple times? I see this happen at the company I work for on almost every major project, and it ends up costing a lot of extra time, which translates to a lot of extra money. I think the answer to the question of which software development process does Google follow is that they don’t.

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  6. Don’t you think that – In race to catch up other peers, likes of Facebook & Twitter, google has done so hurry to launch BUZZ & in turn turning out to making small blunders which affects someone’s privacy.

    Still it force me to think twice before using Google tools except SEARCH.

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  7. Quoting Tim O’Reilly’s status : http://twitter.com/timoreilly/statuses/9066457679

    From a discussion of Google Buzz. Samuel Johnson: “Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must first be overcome.”

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    1. That’s a good point, Santosh — and a great quote.

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      1. But also, “primum non nocere”: do no harm. Google says its slogan is do no evil, but it really did quite a bit of nonsense by not allowing its users into the kimono to think about how privacy should be dealt with before opening the floodgates.

        I’ve gone through and disabled every Buzz/Profile/public related feature.

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    2. That’s true as well, Glenn. Umair Haque made a similar point in a recent post about Buzz, where he talked about the “Hippocrates Concept” in designing user experiences: http://blogs.hbr.org/haque/2010/02/google_buzz_revolution_evoluti.html

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  8. this is what happens when software engineers write code for themselves, colleagues, and their fellow geeks vs. for the public at large. Microsoft has been doing this for years, and they still haven’t learned their lesson (e.g. Windows Mobile) after having been around for 25 years.

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  9. Well, if they keep iterating this fast, Google Buzz could get really awesome really fast. Keep at it!

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  10. Google Buzz is better suited than FB or Twitter for official corporate or government communications — such as a product recall or county emergency response. For such an application, part of the answer to the privacy issue is for the enterprise PR department to open a dedicated gmail account and proclaim that all communications through it (buzz, e-mail) are open public record. My Buzz on this topic: http://bit.ly/9gxinH

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