Can we get a do-over, please?
That's what Google is asking the Webosphere about Buzz, its Twitter-meets-Friendfeed wannabe that launched last February and did an immediate face plant.
The problem with Buzz? Too Much Information. It was a chatty little harpy that couldn't keep its trap shut about who you were talking/chatting/emailing and lord knows what else with. Think of Buzz as the world's most gossipy hairdresser after two margaritas and an Adderall.
After Google got smacked down hard, it apologized and tweaked the service to make the privacy settings more transparent and your personal connections less obvious. And tweaked it again. And again. And maybe again -- I don't know, I lost count.
Yesterday, Google did it one more time, announcing that if you're a Buzz user you will now have the opportunity to confirm that, yes, you really do want to follow the people you're following, and to block any followers who are creeping you out and/or can't stop talking endlessly about nothing.
It's a minor change, but at least it shows that Google understands where it goofed and is (desperately) trying to make amends.
Some folks think the whole Buzz controversy is a lot of noise about very little. Well, maybe this story will change your mind.
Last week, a group called Consumer Watchdog filed a Freedom of Information Act request for records relating to the Buzz account of Andrew McLaughlin, Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the White House. It seems opponents of the Obama administration discovered McLaughlin likes to pal around with his old buddies at Google. Per the teabag-friendly BigGovernment blog:
McLaughlin’s Buzz profile (which he quickly made private after his contacts were exposed) is enlightening to say the least. It includes a treasure trove of movers and shakers in high-tech, Internet public policy, and venture capital circles.
But it includes much, much more. At least 28 of the folks Google Buzz pulled from McLaughlin’s Gmail contact list are employed by…Google! And, as you can see from the screenshots below (captured before he made his contact lists private) McLaughlin’s Gmail appears to include a “who’s who” of Google senior lobbyists and lawyers from across the globe...
We are shocked -- shocked! -- to discover that a former lobbyist still has friends at the company he used to lobby for. It's yet another sign of creeping socialism in America. (Although, when the last guys in office did the same thing -- and the guys before that, and the ones before them -- it was a sign of robust capitalism. What a difference a few years and an Hawaiian birth certificate make, eh?)
I digress. The point here: By being a little too generous with its users' personal information, Buzz created unintended problems for at least one of them. And it could do the same thing to people on the other side of the political aisle, or those who don't give a hoot about politics, or you, for that matter.
As Bobby Dylan once sang, keep a clean nose and watch the plainclothes. And when presented a choice between making your information public and private, go with private. You'll thank me later.
Blogger Dan Tynan doesn't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but he dials up weather.com just the same. Catch his unique blend of sophomoric snark at eSarcasm, the geek humor site unbounded by good sense or taste.