Amidst a user backlash regarding changes to its Reader application, Google on Wednesday made slight adjustments to the service to enable more control over sharing capabilities.
Reader users can now separate shared newsfeeds into categories that are only accessible to friends if that user sends them a direct link.
Google Reader aggregates selected news feeds in a central location, and allows users to share entries via a public Web site with the click of the mouse. Until recently, users had to send their friends the exact URL to that Web site if they wanted them to view selected feeds. On Dec. 14, however, Google announced that it would integrate users' shared feeds with everyone on their Gmail chat lists.
That meant that any Gmail user with whom you've ever chatted or exchanged e-mail would be able to see your shared newsfeeds on the left-hand navigation bar should they also access Reader. Ever hit "reply all" to a party invitation or had a two-line conversation with a business acquaintance? If they are also Reader users, the update would now allow them to see that you "shared" a recent Perez Hilton dissection of the Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy.
The only way to block contacts from seeing your shared feeds was to delete them completely from your Gmail contacts.
Form the Google Reader blog post:
Google, Google Reader, Google Talk, Gmail, Security, Privacy, Sharing, Updates
We're looking at ways to make sharing more granular and flexible, but in the meantime there are several ways to share items without letting all of your Google Talk friends see them (you can also add or remove friends via Gmail or Google Talk).
You can still share any tag, or items you've starred, by clicking on Settings and selecting Tags. Each tag you share will get its own public page and feed URL, the same way shared items has a public page and feed; these tags will not be shared with anyone unless you send them the public address. Once you've shared a tag, simply click "Edit tags" at the bottom of any item to share it under that tag.
If you've already shared some items, you can click "Manage friends" in the upper-left box and then "move or clear your shared items"; from there you can select a tag to which you can transfer your list of shared items, or you can clear the list completely and start sharing anew. If you haven't logged into Reader in a while you'll be greeted by a pop-up window titled "Share with Friends", and you'll have the option to move or clear your shared items from there - your items will not be shared with your friends until you've clicked "Continue" from this window.