Apparently the Google Buzz team is very hard at work (on a week-end break!) to fix some of the more blatant problems with Buzz initialization, see their post titled A new Buzz start-up experience based on your feedback; including a nice apology at the end regarding the panic.
My gut feeling is that there are still way too many opt-out things. List visibility, for one: opt-out still does not feel quite right to me; it is too easy for people to not care at first and regret it only when it’s too late. The obvious fact that leaked information can’t be unleaked should be taken into account.
Also, one of the core problems, clearly separating contacts vs friends, apparently remains. I’ll need to retry Buzz someday to see how it feels after this update.
Update: see also Google Buzz – anatomy of a slow motion train wreck, a very good analysis of what happened and things to expect. I share the feeling about the shift in privacy habits that Google (or should I say, some people at Google, but from where I stand that is irrelevant) are trying to shove down our throats.
Update: the mainstream press is getting angry, too. Furious John Naughton article in The Guardian, quoting:
In the real world, the devil is in the details. In cyberspace, it’s in the defaults. And the default settings in Buzz are so crass that one cannot imagine they are the product of corporate carelessness.
The Google boys are smart and know exactly what they’re doing. They’ve been enviously watching the stupendous growth of Twitter and Facebook and wondering how Google can cut them off at the knees before they become really unstoppable – which brings us back to Microsoft.
Update: another article, Buzz: Google Needs Better ‘People Skills’: (this one I find slightly unfair, albeit not totally undeserved)
Given the option, Google’s choice for default settings were what benefited Google the most, not what best protected its consumers.[…]
Privacy, however, impacts everything Google does. That the company could get Buzz privacy so terribly wrong is reason for serious concern.
Google needs to learn when to put people first and technology second.pdate:
Update: other articles, at Cnet:
Wasn’t this outcry entirely predictable? Weren’t these settings merely the behavior of machines–or, at least, machineheads–who didn’t stop to think for one moment how real people might react, how real people choose to behave? There seem to be far too many people in the tech world who are fond of the notion that privacy is no longer the social norm.
at Supreme court of Texas blog (including detailed explanations on how to cleanup Buzz before turning it off):
There was a pretty massive shift in your privacy a couple of days ago. You might not have noticed it. But unless you take a few steps to protect yourself, Google may be sharing some of your confidences with the world.
Repurposing old data in a way that flouts our expectations of privacy
The problem is how. Google has taken a couple of services that had basically clear privacy expectations — specifically, Gmail (private) and Google Profiles (public) — and combined them in a way that discloses previously private information that many people consider confidential.