Google moved quickly over the weekend to try to contain mounting criticism of Buzz, its social network, apologizing to users for features that were widely seen as endangering privacy and announcing product changes to address those concerns.
Todd Jackson, product manager for Gmail and Google Buzz, wrote in a blog post on Saturday that Google had decided to alter one of the most-criticized features in Buzz: the ready-made circle of friends the service provided to new users based on their most frequent e-mail and chat contacts in Gmail. Instead of automatically connecting people, Buzz will in the future merely suggest to new users a group of people they may want to follow or be followed by, he said.
Mr. Jackson, who said that the auto-follow feature had been intended to make it easy for people to get started on Buzz, acknowledged the criticism that was heaped on Google in the last few days. […]
The start-up process for Buzz, which Google introduced on Tuesday as its answer to Facebook and Twitter, drew angry responses on technology blogs and beyond, as users feared that the names of their e-mail correspondents would be publicly exposed. A first set of changes that Google announced on Thursday failed to quell the uproar.
Some critics said the latest modifications to Buzz, which is tightly coupled with Gmail, appeared to have addressed the most serious privacy concern. […]
Google also said that it would create a new Buzz tab in Gmail’s settings page to allow users to hide Buzz from Gmail completely. The page gives users the option to disable Buzz, deleting their posts and removing their Google profile, which in many cases listed publicly their circle of contacts in Buzz. The new feature could address concerns that disabling Buzz and removing a public profile was a multistep process that confused many users and that some described as a game of whack-a-mole.
Google also will no longer automatically connect public Picasa albums and items shared on Google Reader, another feature that had been widely criticized by some users and privacy advocates. […]
The changes Google announced on Saturday will be carried out in the next few days.