Google Buzz has had one heck of a first week. After not fully testing the product, Google launched Buzz and forced all Gmail users into it without a way to opt out. Then we realized they were automatically sharing the list of people we chatted with and emailed most frequently. Finally, Google backed off many of these “features,” and made it possible to disable Buzz (and not just hide it). And the angry masses aren’t the only ones—now the Canadian government is scrutinizing the service.
Valerie Lawton, a spokeswoman for the [Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada], said the office is looking into concerns about Buzz.
“We understand the public concern about privacy issues related to Google Buzz,” she said. “Our office is looking at the issue.”
They may make further comment today. However, many of Buzz’s initial problems—specifically autosharing and autofollowing the people you chat with and email, making your friend lists public and no way to opt out—have been addressed through promised (and delivered) changes. So complaints filed with the commission last week may be moot by now—or not.
Possibly more importantly, has Google (and everyone else) learned its lesson, privacy inquiry or no? Unfortunately, I doubt it. Lately the mode seems to be “roll it out first and worry about privacy, usability and . . . everything! later,” and not just for Google. Opting in to new features is becoming increasingly rare—and opting out is becoming harder. I know people are resistant to change and hesitant to try new things—but please, Google et al., don’t do this. As I said last week:
Stop. Test new features with real users. Ask for feedback. Don’t force crap on us—let us opt in, and if we like it, we’ll encourage others to opt in, too. And think about the implications before you get the negative ink and/or lawsuits, for once.
And remember, if you want out of Buzz, go to the Buzz tab in your Gmail Settings to turn it off completely. The tab hasn’t rolled out fully—I only have it in half of my accounts—but should be live for all users pretty soon.
What do you think? Will Canada find further privacy changes they want? Will Google and its ilk ever stop pushing us into “features” we don’t want?