Gmail and Google Buzz product manager Todd Jackson detailed the changes to the security settings in a post on The Official Gmail Blog. Highlights follow:
We’ve had plenty of feature requests and some direct feedback. In particular, there’s been concern from some people who thought their contacts were being made public without their knowledge (in particular, the lists of people they follow, and the people following them). In addition, others felt that they had too little control over who could follow them and were upset that they lacked the ability to block people who didn’t yet have public profiles from following them.
The first time you create a post or comment in Buzz, we ask you to create a limited public profile (at a minimum it’s just your first and last names). We do this so we’ll know what name to display next to your posts — and so the people you follow know who you are. As you do this, we notify you that the lists of people you follow and the people following you will be displayed on your public profile. You can view, edit, and even hide these lists. The lists of your followers/people you follow are not made public on your profile until after you go through this profile creation step.
If you don’t want to share the lists of people who are following you and people you are following publicly on your profile, you can always opt out during the profile setup when you first use Buzz or at any time from the edit profile page. We are making this option more prominent in the setup process to ensure that everyone who wanted to hide these lists can do so easily.
We are making it easier to block anyone by adding “Block” links to the list of people following you. Previously, you were only able to block people from following you after they had created a public profile. Now, you can block anyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve already created profiles for themselves.
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.
However, those changes may not be enough to pacify blogger Harriet Jacobs. As reported by Silicon Alley Insider, Jacobs was none too happy that her abusive ex-husband and his friends were among the people auto-following her, and she expressed her feelings quite strongly in a post on her blog:
Which is why it’s SO EXCITING, Google, that you AUTOMATICALLY allowed all my most frequent contacts access to my Reader, including all the comments I’ve made on Reader items, usually shared with my boyfriend, who I had NO REASON to hide my current location or workplace from, and never did.
Fuck you, Google. My privacy concerns are not trite. They are linked to my actual physical safety, and I will now have to spend the next few days maintaining that safety by continually knocking down followers as they pop up. A few days is how long I expect it will take before you either knock this shit off, or I delete every Google account I have ever had and use Bing out of fucking spite.
Fuck you, Google. You have destroyed over 10 years of my goodwill and adoration, just so you could try and out-MySpace MySpace.
According to Seesmic:
If you add your Google Talk account to Ping.fm and then add Google Talk as a service to Google Buzz, you will instantly update Google Buzz exactly at the same time as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and the 50 social networks supported by Ping.fm. It is also much faster than adding Twitter as a service to Google Buzz, which can be delayed up to an hour for your updates to show on Buzz. You can then update Ping.fm from any app supporting it (all Seesmic apps very soon), SMS, email or…chat. Very handy.