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Quora tweaks controversial Views privacy setting

The Q&A site says it will tweak, but not undo, a recent change that publicly discloses who's reading which articles.

Quora continues to rebuff requests to reverse a change to its Web site that publicly discloses what articles its users are reading.

But the question-and-answer site said in a announcement late today that it will make that information visible in fewer places.

The what-users-have-been-reading disclosure will continue to appear on the question, answer, or post page, but not other people's feeds, said Sandra Liu Huang, a Quora product manager.

That move comes after Quora suffered a black eye yesterday after a public complaint from one of its users -- who discovered that his reading habits were far more public than he intended them to be.

Ivan Kirigin, who's working on a new startup after stints as a Facebook engineer and a Dropbox product manager, isn't exactly naive in the ways of privacy and the social Web. But he was startled when a founder at the startup where his wife works noticed that Kirigin had been reading a Quora financial article about net worth and savings habits.

"I don't recall opting in or seeing any announcement" that anything had changed, Kirigin told CNET today. In a well-read blog post yesterday titled "This is a bit f--ked, Quora," but missing those dashes, Kirigin called it a "cynical product decision from a service that I otherwise really love using." He added:

What if the question were "How can I cope with newly discovered cancer?"
Or, "Should I come out to my parents?"
Or, "What is the best way to hide an affair?"

For its part, Quora says the public disclosure of users' reading choices, which it calls Views, does not share visits to pages with adult content. Views also, Quora says, publicizes visits only to topics that a user is following. And Views can be disabled if a user wades through settings menus.

"When we launched Views, we put an announcement at the top of everyone's home page and only turned on a person's Views after they had encountered this announcement," Sandra Liu Huang, a Quora product manager, told CNET yesterday.

On August 1, the question-and-answer site announced in a blog post that it would make publicly available a list of who's reading what articles under the name Views. The move, Quora claimed at the time, would "make the browsing experience more interesting."