, the new Buzzsocial networking tool released by Google just a week ago, was hit with an FTC complaint on Tuesday of this week. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a 16 page GoogleBuzz_Complaint with the FTC, alleging that Google Buzz violates the privacy of Gmail (Google email) users. The EPIC complaint alleges that Google “is engaging in unfair and deceptive acts and practices,” violated user privacy rights, and “may have also violated federal wiretapping laws.”
The EPIC complaint demonstrates in detail how the Google Buzz system violated Gmail user privacy by automating the process of who was able to follow the user, based on that user’s email history. Users were not explicitly warned that their profile would be available to the public, or that anyone in their email profile had access to their posts. The system also automatically creates a list of followers from the user’s email account, thereby disclosing to the public the people with whom the user has frequently emailed.
While Google has made two major revisions to Google Buzz since it was launched, it still has a long way to go before it can be deemed safe to use. I am a huge fan of Gmail, and I was looking forward to Google Buzz until I actually tried it. I was stunned to see that I already had “followers” as soon as I opened Buzz, without having the opportunity to decide who could follow me and who couldn’t. Unlike Facebook, where a person has to approve a “friend” before they are allowed access to your profile, Google Buzz puts everything on public display first. I have not spoken to anyone who actually likes Buzz, and I do not plan to make use of it until Google gets a clue on how social networking is supposed to work. Not everyone who sends me an email is my friend.
Of course, with Buzz’s current privacy settings, I may be using it more than I know.
To read the FTC complaint, click here: GoogleBuzz_Complaint.