Google Buzz Kills Auto-Follow on Privacy Concerns

As it turns out, people don’t like their info being shared automatically.

When Google Buzz launched last week, people weren’t thrilled that their Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader items were suddenly being shared with their contacts. To be fair, Google only shared public albums and shared Reader items. But unless your contacts already knew about them – from you purposefully sharing them – it’s doubtful most of them would be accessing them.

Plus, it’s likely some Picasa and Google Reader users don’t realize their stuff is public. I mean, this is a day and age where people think that blogs are Facebook.

Google is learning a basic consumer lesson the hard way: people don’t want their online services set to auto-share. They’re killing the autofollowing and autosharing features in Buzz.

In many ways, Google has gotten away with automated features. People probably don’t realize how much data Google is collecting on them. Even though Google blogs about opting-out of web history data collection, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that most Internet users probably don’t read Google’s blogs. Gmail users may not even realize that their email is a service of Google.

Then there’s advertising, which relies on data collection. Google wouldn’t probably be as succe$sful if they didn’t know that web users aren’t very web savvy. Plus, when web users get a hint of data collection, they tend to swing to the other side of the pendulum and overstate the issue, ignoring things like anonymized data.

Perhaps Google got a little too comfortable with Internet ignorance. They certainly struck a nerve with the autofollowing and autosharing of Buzz. Still, it’s doubtful this will do any serious damage to Google. The psychological relief of getting what you want from a company (in this case, greater perceived privacy) is easier than changing your email and search habits.

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