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Google Buzz Settlement Reached over Privacy Accusations

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 01, 2011 6:45 AM

Since Google Buzz launched early last year, the social networking tool has been the topic of heated debate.

It was immediately recognized that Google Buzz privacy settings were nonexistent, forcing all Gmail users to opt-in despite promises otherwise.

The Federal Trade Commission announced earlier this week that a Google Buzz settlement has been reached with respect these privacy misrepresentations. The settlement is expected to impact the entire industry.

The Google Buzz settlement looks much like Twitter's privacy settlement in that it focuses primarily on Google Buzz privacy transparency and protection.

The agreement forbids Google from misrepresenting the extent to which it collects, uses and protects user information, as well as how much control users have.

The Google Buzz settlement also requires the company to put into place a new privacy program, including dedicated employees, risk identification, testing, and fixes to foreseeable risks.

That program will be audited every two years for the next twenty to ensure that the Google Buzz privacy program meets requirements.

While these terms are fairly standard, they are still incredibly important and instructive to other social networks.

Following the press release announcing the settlement, the FTC tweeted that its terms should be considered industry best practices. Users can expect the FTC to work on implementing the Google Buzz settlement as a framework for the entire industry.

The FTC also focused on default Google Buzz privacy settings during its investigation, criticizing how difficult it was for users to opt-out of the tool. This was an interesting turn of events, and may nudge Facebook away from its notoriously difficult privacy settings.

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