Google Buzz settlement gets FTC approval

Company must submit to independent privacy audits for next 20 years, can't make privacy misrepresentations, and must implement comprehensive privacy program

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission members voted unanimously to approve an agreement that settles a privacy-violation complaint the agency leveled against Google over the company's Buzz microblogging and social networking service.

The settlement agreement, unveiled in March of this year, was approved 4-0 by commissioners following a public comment period, the FTC said on Monday.

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When it launched Buzz last year, Google used deceptive tactics and violated its own policies, harming consumers' privacy, according to the FTC.

Buzz, which Google recently shut down, harvested personal information from Google's Gmail Web mail service without users' permission, exposing and sharing private data.

The settlement stipulates that Google can't make privacy misrepresentations and that it must put in place a comprehensive privacy program. Google also must submit to independent privacy audits for the next 20 years.

Back in March, Google apologized in a blog post for its "mistakes" with Buzz, saying the launch of the service "fell short" of the company's standards for transparency and user control.

In June of this year, Google took another crack at social networking with the launch of its Google+ site, whose design prioritizes privacy controls. So far, Google+ has avoided privacy blunders and has been generally well-received, as it faces mighty competitor Facebook.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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