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from the L.A. Times

Google makes more changes to Buzz to address privacy concerns

Google Inc. issued a mea culpa Saturday, saying it had made mistakes in how it launched its new social networking service Buzz. In response to a sharp backlash from users and watchdogs, the Internet giant apologized for escalating concerns about the privacy of the product.

"We quickly realized that we didn't get everything quite right," Google product manager Todd Jackson said in a blog post Saturday. "We're very sorry for the concern we've caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback. We'll continue to do so."

Jackson said Buzz would no longer automatically have users follow the posts of frequent Gmail contacts. Instead, it will suggest people whom users might want to follow. Google also will put a Buzz tab in Gmail settings to make it easier for users to turn it off. Buzz will no longer automatically connect Buzz to Picasa photo albums and Google Reader items, the company said.

The changes, which will take effect over the next few days, were the latest Google had made to Buzz since it launched the product inside millions of Gmail accounts less than a week ago.

Controversy erupted as Buzz popped up in inboxes. Users complained that Google automatically signed them up to follow some of their Gmail contacts and exposed their contacts by making their follower lists public.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Friday that the way Google handled Buzz was a major blunder and a rare one. In the past, Google has been more careful to give users control over privacy settings. Rotenberg said his group would file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

-- Jessica Guynn

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