Written by: Laura Clapper
Google has settled a case regarding its social network product, Google Buzz, with the Federal Trade Communication (FTC) that didn’t quite excite the masses due to alleged deceptive tactics. The FTC cited thousands of complaints from users that their email contacts (including friends, spouses, patients, employers, etc.) were revealed against their will when Google Buzz was unveiled in 2010. According to the FTC, this amounted to deceptive tactics and marked a breach of Google's own privacy promises to consumers -- a mistake that violated the FTC Act.
Google has agreed to establish a “comprehensive privacy program” and doesn’t admit any wrongdoing. However, Google will now have to send regular reports on its privacy practices for the next 20 years to the agency. Watchdog group, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was the first to complain about Google Buzz on behalf of users. The privacy program will make for the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information.
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“This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations," said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC, in a statement about the settlement. “When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them."
Google took to its blog this morning to keep readers up to date with Google Buzz and its privacy issues. Alma Whitten, Director of Privacy, Product & Engineering at Google writes:
"The launch of Google Buzz fell short of our usual standards for transparency and user control—letting our users and Google down. While we worked quickly to make improvements, regulators—including the U.S. Federal Trade Commission—unsurprisingly wanted more detail about what went wrong and how we could prevent it from happening again. Today, we’ve reached an agreement with the FTC to address their concerns. We’ll receive an independent review of our privacy procedures once every two years, and we’ll ask users to give us affirmative consent before we change how we share their personal information.
"We’d like to apologize again for the mistakes we made with Buzz. While today’s announcement thankfully put this incident behind us, we are 100 percent focused on ensuring that our new privacy procedures effectively protect the interests of all our users going forward."