Internet Law

As FTC Settles Google Buzz Privacy Case with Agreed Policy, Google Debuts New Search-Sharing Tool

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As the Federal Trade Commission today announced that a privacy case over last year’s rollout of Google Buzz had been settled by the Internet titan’s promise to implement an agreed privacy policy, Google simultaneously debuted a new search tool.

It is designed to encourage users to share their search results online with social network contacts at the touch of a button. A Official Google Blog post provides details of the new +1 function.

As a press release by the FTC and the New York Times (reg. req.) detail, the proposed settlement in the privacy case requires Google to implement a privacy program to ensure compliance with its own privacy policy and submit to privacy audits for the next 20 years.

Future violations will carry a $16,000 penalty, the newspaper notes.

The FTC’s complaint (PDF) alleged that Google didn’t adequately disclose to those who enrolled in Buzz that previously private information was going to be shared by default unless they affirmatively acted to keep it private.

“Further, the controls that would allow the user to change the defaults were confusing and difficult to find,” the FTC says in the complaint.

An Official Google Blog post offers an apology and says the company is pleased to have the situation resolved.

The settlement is also discussed by Bloomberg, IDG News Service and the Faster Forward page of the Washington Post, among other media outlets.

The privacy policy agreed to in the settlement is expected to serve as a model for other Internet companies.

Related coverage:

ABA Journal: “Online Applications Too Risky? One Firm Takes the Plunge” “Peeved By Google Buzz Privacy Issue, Harvard 2L Files Suit” “Google Admits Street View Cars Snagged E-Mail & Passwords, Is Sued re Saved Search Queries” “Google Faces FCC Probe of Street View Data Collection Practices” “Feds Propose ‘Do Not Track’ List to Protect Web-Surfers’ Privacy” “Explore the World of Web Tools Behind Google’s ‘More’”

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