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Google revises privacy settings on Buzz again

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Google on Saturday again revised privacy settings of Buzz, the new social network it has piggy- backed onto tens of millions of existing Gmail accounts.

It was the second major revision in 72 hours. The search giant has been scrambling all week to quell backlash from Gmail users upset about how Google has introduced the new service and how Buzz taps into their Gmail contacts list.

Buzz lets Gmail subscribers create profiles, like Facebook, and send Internet-wide blog postings, like Twitter. One issue of concern is a feature called “auto follow” that automatically sets up people you e-mail and chat with the most as followers of your Buzz postings.

Google launched Buzz on Tuesday with auto follow enabled by default. Disabling it required several steps. On Thursday, Google announced it would revise that feature by displaying a pre-checked box, followed by two lines of text describing the auto follow function and allowing first time users to disable it by unchecking the box.

On Saturday afternoon, Google announced another revision. It said first time users will be presented with a series of pre-checked boxes, each showing a photo and name of a specific person Google suggests the user follows, chosen from those they e-mail and chat with “the most,” says company spokeswoman Victoria Katsarou.

Users will not be able to use Buzz unless they make some choices at that point: affirm the full list, disable the entire list, or select specific individuals from the list to follow. “We’re prompting you to make the decision to say ‘Yes, we want to follow these people,'” says Katsarou.

She said the new revision, dubbed “auto-suggest,” will go live “in the next couple of days.”

Some critics have been calling for Google to go a step further and assume Gmail users do not want Buzz’s auto follow feature enabled unless they specifically request it. Nicholas Carlson, senior editor at Silicon Alley Insider, says this could easily be done by leaving the boxes unchecked. Users would retain the privilege to “opt in” by checking boxes.

Beyond the auto follow feature, Buzz’s tight integration with Gmail and other free Google online services has raised a storm of complaints on blogs and social networks. Some users have complained about their lists of contacts being spread too widely without their permission, introducing the potential to disrupt business and personal confidences.

In its blog post Saturday, Google acknowledged the problems.

“We quickly realized that we didn’t get everything quite right,” wrote Todd Jackson, Google’s product manager for Gmail and Buzz. “We’re very sorry for the concern we’ve caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback. We’ll continue to do so.”
Source: USA Today

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