Google Settles with FTC Over Buzz

When Google launched it’s attempt at social networking last year, Google Buzz, it automatically shared all of your information set to public with all of your contact. It also shared your Gmail contact list, which enabled people to learn a lot about your email habits.

In addition to being massively unpopular and the source of truly bad PR, Google paid $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit as a result, though they did quickly change the policies.

Now Google has finally settled its case with the FTC. Google will have to get “express affirmative consent” before sharing information — and that is more than just the typical privacy policy fine print, license agreement, terms of use, or privacy policy page. They must explicitly show a warning to users saying how information will be used in basic english, and the user will have to explicitly agree to it. In addition Google will have to have an independent review of their privacy procedures every two years for the next 20 years.

Google said on their blog today:

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.

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