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Social Irony: FTC Rules on Buzz Privacy Stampede

On the same day that Google has announced it is rolling out it’s version of the Facebook Like button called +1, the FTC has given its ‘ruling’ on another social endeavor by Google.

You remember Buzz right? The thing that sits in your inbox and attracts followers from parts unknown and relationships unknown? Back when it was introduced there was quite a stir caused because Google thought it correct to simply put everyone’s e-mail lists out to the general public to share. Hey why not? We’re in the Age of Openness, right? Well, the reaction was swift and it caught the attention of the FTC and it was just one year ago to the day that we reported on the FTC’s interest in Google’s privacy practices which led to a reversal of practice by Google.

Well, today they finally felt the sting of a stern talking down by the FTC. Nothing more, nothing less. In other words, there will be no fines but there will be requirements for Google to follow. As TechCrunch reports

Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC said in the release: “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.”

The settlement bars the search giant from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and calls for regular, independent privacy audits by independent third parties for the next 20 years. The charge also requires Google to obtain users’ consent before sharing their information with third parties. And the FTC says this is the first time in history where a settlement has required a company to conduct a privacy program of this kind.

What did Google have to say? In their blog they stated

User trust really matters to Google. That’s why we try to be clear about what data we collect and how we use it—and to give people real control over the information they share with us.

That said, we don’t always get everything right. 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.

And finally the big moment. The Google mea culpa.

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.

So on the same day that Google’s +1 grabs the headlines a rather dark chapter in the history of Google’s social networking attempts can be closed. Now you have to wonder when Buzz itself will be shuttered.

Do you use Buzz? Would you care or even know if it went away?

  • Cranios

    Never even heard of Buzz before this article.

  • IRGN

    I use google buzz (a lot) because its the only way i use to get updates (without emailing) from friends in a country where facebook is banned. And i like it because it’s not (yet) as open as Facebook.