The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with Google, which the FTC says violated the promises it made about consumers’ privacy when it launched the social network Google Buzz in 2010.
The settlement represents the first time the FTC has ordered a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect consumers' information, and the first time it has brought an action based on the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Privacy Framework.
When Google launched Buzz in 2010, inside its email service Gmail, it provided inadequate options for declining or leaving the social network, the FTC found. Additionally, the FTC charged that the controls for limiting or sharing personal information were confusing and difficult to find. Google received thousands of complaints from consumers that all of sudden found out they were participating in the network, and that their identity and their most recent email contacts were made public without their consent, the FTC said. The commission also maintains that Google misrepresented how it was treating personal information from the European Union.
"When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them," said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC. "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."