The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that Google’s new social networking service Buzz violates federal consumer protection law.
The EPIC complaint calls on the Trade Commission to require Google to make the Buzz service fully opt-in, to stop using Gmail users’ private address book contacts to gather social networking lists, and to give Google users more control over their personal data.
"This is a significant breach of consumers’ expectations of privacy," said Marc Rotenberg, EPIC, Executive Director.
"Google should not be allowed to push users’ personal information into a social network they never requested."
Google introduced Buzz on February 9, and activated it for all Gmail users. When users began viewing the service, they were automatically listed as "following" post from their most common email contacts. Participation in the service also created a profile publicly displaying the list of common contacts.
To its credit Google has made changes to Buzz twice in response to widespread criticism, but EPIC maintains privacy violations remain.
The EPIC complaint argues email providers have a responsibility to protect the personal information that users provide and Google has not fulfilled this responsibility.
Google says it is still working on Buzz to improve it based on user feedback. "We quickly realized that we didn’t get everything quite right," the company said in a blog post.
"We’re very sorry for the concern we’ve caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback. We’ll continue to do so."