Privacy advocates file FTC complaint on Google Buzz
The fallout from Google’s fast but perhaps clumsy move into social networking continues. An Internet privacy watchdog group complained to the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday afternoon that the Google Buzz social networking application attached to the company’s popular e-mail program caused “clear harms to service subscribers.”
In the complaint, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, said the launch of Google Buzz last week converted private and personal information of Gmail users into public information.
Soon after Google Buzz launched one week ago, users of Gmail (which has 37 million users) decried the new application as it automatically drew from contacts in the program into a social network. Users said their e-mail contacts weren’t necessarily people they wanted to follow them in Google’s new social network meant to take on Facebook. Moreoever, those contacts were made public unless explicitly set to remain private. Opting to keep those contacts private along with information shared by users was confusing.
"We've already made a few changes based on user feedback, and we have more improvements in the works,” a Google representative said in a statement. “We also welcome dialogue with EPIC and appreciate hearing directly from them about their concerns. Our door is always open to organizations with suggestions about our products and services."
EPIC urged the FTC to investigate the Google application for harms and whether the company deserves to be punished. It asked the agency to force the online search giant to provide the service only as a voluntary, or opt-in, service as opposed to an opt-out application. The advocacy group urged that the FTC also require Google to provide notice and request consent from users before making changes to privacy policies.
In March 2009, EPIC filed a complaint with the FTC to investigate the misuse of personal data from Google’s cloud computing programs.
As Google spreads its wings into so many different new business lines – broadband, social networking, cellphones -- in the past two months, analysts have questioned the company’s ability to maintain its strong brand among consumers as debacles like this occur.
February 17, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: FTC , Google , Privacy
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