Google To Buzz Users: Are You Sure You're Not Oversharing?

When Google announced its big jump into the social stream with the launch of Google Buzz back in February, the company thought it was doing everyone a favor by having users auto-follow the people they emailed and chatted the most with. That was a mistake, and the heat was turned on quickly by the broad press, vocal users and privacy pundits.

Two days after launching (prematurely), Google tweaked the product to make it clearer for new users what was going on behind the scenes when they click the ‘Buzz’ tab, and they made even more changes two days after that.

But those changes only affected new users, and not the – reportedly – millions of people who gave it a whirl in the first four days after launch. Later today, Google will start prompting all existing users to review their existing privacy settings upon launching the service.

The company will soon publish a blog post in which they admit they “didn’t get everything right” and confirm that they will gradually start presenting the following screen to users who click the ‘Buzz’ tab over the course of the day:

This page essentially highlights users’ current Buzz settings, which they can promptly confirm or change. It lets users view and edit the people they’re following as well as the people following them, choose whether they want those lists appearing on their public Google profiles, and modify any of the sites connected to Google Buzz (e.g. Flickr, Twitter and Google Reader).

The news comes shortly after multiple lawmakers had asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Buzz for breaches of consumer privacy. But while some are now implying that Google is letting users reset their privacy settings to get Congress off its back, the truth is that Google had already stated this was coming on February 13, when it blogged:

For the tens of millions of you who have already started using Buzz, over the next couple weeks we’ll be showing you a similar version of this new start-up experience to give you a second chance to review and confirm the people you’re following.

Of note is that Google has also set up a dedicated YouTube channel for Google Buzz, including eight videos explaining the basic concept and specific features. In an amusing twist of irony, 7 out of 8 videos are currently set to ‘Private’ and cannot be viewed yet.