Google Buzz: Are You Sure You Want to Do That?

Google (s goog), after repeated alterations to the service to deal with privacy concerns, is rolling out a new “confirmation screen” for users of Google Buzz today, which will show all the people a user is following, as well as how many people are following them, whether they have chosen to show their follows on their Google profile page, and how many services they have connected to Buzz. In a blog post that will go went live on the official Google blog later today, Buzz product manager Todd Jackson says that after a number of changes to the service since it launched a few months ago — and some privacy concerns about sharing information through Buzz — Google wanted to check with users and make sure they were comfortable with their settings.

The service’s privacy issues have resulted in a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, as well as several lawsuits, and have even ensnared the Obama administration’s deputy chief technology officer. As Jackson says in the blog post:

Shortly after launching Google Buzz, we quickly realized we didn’t get everything right and moved as fast as possible to improve the Buzz experience. We made a number of changes to the getting started experience based on your feedback, the most significant of which was replacing auto-following with suggestions for people to follow. But many of you started using Google Buzz before we made these changes, and we want to help you ensure that Buzz is set up the way you want.

The confirmation screen will look like the screenshot below, and will be shown to all users when they click the Buzz tab in their Gmail. Google has also set up a YouTube channel specifically for Buzz explanatory videos.

Buzz was hit with some fairly severe criticism immediately after it launched in February. Some users felt Google had compromised their privacy by auto-following contacts in their Gmail accounts, and by not making it clear that the people they followed through the service would be displayed publicly on their Google profile pages. The company made some changes fairly quickly, although Google CEO Eric Schmidt suggested in his comments at the Mobile World Congress that the concerns were mostly a misunderstanding. Buzz product manager Todd Jackson, however, said that users were right to be upset about some of the settings, and apologized for the screwups — which sociologist (and Microsoft researcher) Danah Boyd talked about in a presentation at SXSW. Brad Horowitz, Google’s VP of product development for apps, talked about what the company sees as the future of Buzz at a recent dinner in Palo Alto, Calif.

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