Google Buzz Changes ‘Auto Follow’ to ‘Auto Suggest’

Google Buzz launched only 4 days ago.  And almost immediately, the new social networking element met criticism for their privacy settings.  What was the huge concern?  The fact that as soon as you turned on Google Buzz, you instantly were following the people in Gmail that you email and chat with the most, and they were following you – no requests, no permissions.  Nobody appreciated that! And the web lit up with negative criticism for Google Buzz privacy concerns.  Today, however, Google responds with large sweeping privacy updates to appease the complaints.

Here’s the big changes that Google just updated:

First, auto-following. 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. This created a great deal of concern and led people to think that Buzz had automatically displayed the people they were following to the world before they created a profile.

On Thursday, after hearing that people thought the checkbox for choosing not to display this information publicly was too hard to find, we made this option more prominent. But that was clearly not enough. So starting this week, instead of an auto-follow model in which Buzz automatically sets you up to follow the people you email and chat with most, we’re moving to an auto-suggest model. You won’t be set up to follow anyone until you have reviewed the suggestions and clicked “Follow selected people and start using Buzz.”

Second, Buzz will no longer connect your public Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader shared items automatically. Just to be clear: Buzz only automatically connected content that was already public, so if you had previously shared photos in an “Unlisted” album or set your Google Reader shared items as “Protected,” no one except the people you’d explicitly allowed to see your stuff has been able to see it. But due to your feedback Buzz will no longer connect these sites automatically.

Third, we’re adding a Buzz tab to Gmail Settings. From there, you’ll be able to hide Buzz from Gmail or disable it completely. In addition, there will be a link to these settings from the initial start-up page so you can easily decide from the get go that you don’t want to use Buzz at all.