Google responds to privacy concerns

Google says it's made some changes in response to privacy concerns about Buzz -- specifically that user's contacts were being made public without their knowledge.

A Google spokesman points out that the option to keep these contacts private was always there. However, "we heard from people that the checkbox for choosing not to display this information was too hard to find, and based on this feedback, we've changed the notice to make it very clear. We will roll these changes out to all Gmail users later today," Victoria Katsarou with Google Communications told me.

Those include:

"1. More visible option to not show followers/people you follow on your public profile . . .

"2. Ability to block anyone who starts following you. . . .

"3. More clarity on which of your followers/people you follow can appear on your public profile

Initially, we showed you a list of all the people who would be following you once they created a public profile. However, only those contacts who had already created a public profile would show up on your public follower list. We're making this clearer by explicitly distinguishing which of your followers have public profiles and will show in your public list of followers. With this change you'll be able to see who is on the public list of followers that everyone else sees."

It's good to see Google taking these complaints seriously. I'm still not sure about my long-term interest in using Buzz for other reasons -- it seems more like an endless thread of e-mail to plow through right now than the simple snippets of info I get on Twitter. But hopefully Google understands the importance of not mixing information about e-mail, which people long expected to be private, with public social networking.

Sharon Machlis is online managing editor at Computerworld.. Her e-mail address is You can follow her on Twitter @sharon000 or subscribe to her RSS feeds:
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