The Google Reader team just announced that it has implemented more granular controls for who you share items with, including the ability to manage a list of friends within Google Reader that is kept separate from your Google Talk contacts. When Google first announced that Shared Items would now automatically appear in the Google Reader of all your Google Chat contacts, a lot of people were quite upset about the lack of control over who they were sharing with and the possible privacy implications of this.
According to the announcment on the Google Reader blog, Google was aware of these privacy concerns and, in their defense, when the issue around Shared Items and privacy first appeared last December (and, according to some people, ruined their Christmas), they quickly explained what they were doing and how to better manage the shared posts. In today’s post, Google calls the original sharing features it implemented in December “experimental,” though users of course had not option but to participate in this experiment.
Besides being able to pick who to share with, you will now also receive a notification when others decides to share posts with you. Google Reader will then prompt you with an option to also share your own items with them. In this new implementation, you also get the option to just continue doing business as usual and to keep sharing all your items with all you Gmail Chat contacts.
It’s important to point out, though, that your Shared Items are still always made public on your Shared Items page, without the option to turn this off. This new feature only lets you control who will see you shared items in Google Reader directly.
Given the original firestorm over this feature, a lot of people will greet this update as being too long in the making, but judging from our first impression, Google did a very good job in implementing these granular controls and it will be interesting to see if it will use this ‘friending’ feature in other products as well. As more and more companies are being built around sharing posts within a social network, Google itself has not really taken advantage of this, yet.