Google Fixes Privacy Settings For Buzz; Too Late for White House Deputy CTO

One of the greatest complaints of Google Buzz is privacy problems, which the search-and-almost-everything-else giant hoped to address today. This change comes not just from the user backlash but probably also from the fact that Buzz was under investigation by the U.S. FTC (Federal Trade Commission) after members of Congress brought the social networking service to their attention. Unfortunately, these changes come too late for White House Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin, whose GMail contacts were exposed recently via Buzz, and whose Buzz account has now been deleted after a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.

Google Buzz is available by default to all 170M+ users of GMail (and probably its GoogleMail equivalent in the UK), and one of the key changes will be that users can see all their own profile settings, as well have control over these settings. Another important change to look for is that your Buzz profile will no longer automatically follow other users whom you communicate with most frequently. (Hence maybe why follower numbers on my Buzz profile have dropped considerably.) When you do follow another Buzz user, you’ll get warned that this “following” fact might be public info on the other user’s profile.

Buzz’ product manager Todd Jackson says that “[T]ransparency and control is very important to us.” So important, Google, that you rushed Buzz out anyway, and didn’t appear to react until legislators took action? It’s not like you’re some small startup pinning all your hopes on Buzz. You had ample time to get feedback, get things right… before release.

The fact is, it might just be too little, too late, as the saying goes — at least for White House Deputy CTO Andrew McLaughlin, whose Google Buzz account recently revealed many of his GMail contacts publicly — including over two dozen Google employees, many of whom are apparently lobbyists or lawyers, according to the site Big Government. As well, it seems that McLaughlin’s Buzz account seems to have been deleted, after a FOIA request by Consumer Watchdog. The irony is that McLaughlin is actually a former Google employee.

So, will these privacy changes be enough for you to continue using/ return to Google Buzz. Do you think Buzz is an effective communication tool, or have you given up on Buzz, having enough social media to handle with Facebook and Twitter each day?