Privacy group files FTC complaint about Google Buzz

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a consumer privacy advocacy group, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about Google Buzz on February 16.

The complaint states that the social networking service within Google's Gmail violates federal consumer protection law because it makes members of a consumer's contact list public.  

“We believe that Google has been engaging in unfair and deceptive practices,” said Kimberly Nguyen, consumer privacy counsel at EPIC. “When people signed up for Gmail, they signed up for an e-mail service, but now they are automatically being enrolled in a social networking service.”

EPIC wants Google to make Buzz an opt-in service, said Nguyen.

“Most people think of an e-mail account as private, and they don't want their e-mail address book contacts to be public,” she added.

Since Google launched the service last week, the company has been criticized on privacy grounds. At the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Google CEO Eric Schmidt reportedly defended Buzz and said that Google is not publishing e-mail addresses or personal information of Gmail members.

Stressing that Buzz is only a week old, a Google spokesperson told DMNews via e-mail, “We've already made a few changes based on user feedback, and we have more improvements in the works.”

“We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience with user transparency and control top of mind,” said the spokesperson.

The Google representative also said that the company welcomes a dialog with EPIC.

The FTC declined to comment on the complaint. However, Claudia Bourne Farrell, director of public affairs at the FTC, said that “privacy and security are very high priorities” at the agency.

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