Although Google Inc. may be frying bigger fish right now, the Federal Trade Commission has just announced they have reached a settlement with Google over the search giant’s bungled launch of Buzz last year. The agreement stipulates that Google must submit to independent privacy audits for the next 20 years in order to make sure they do not violate privacy policies again.
Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC commented: “When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them. 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.”
The original complaint accuses Google of surreptitiously using GMail as a trojan horse of sorts to launch Buzz, their first major social endeavour, and that options to opt-out and customise privacy settings in Buzz were not easy enough to find and alter.
In a blog post responding to the FTC ruling, Google’s Director of Pirvacy was suitably contrite, saying:
“We don’t always get everything right. The launch of Google Buzz fell short of our usual standards for transparency and user control – letting our users and Google down. [...] Today, we’ve reached an agreement with the FTC to address their concerns. We’ll receive an independent review of our privacy procedures once every two years, and we’ll ask users to give us affirmative consent before we change how we share their personal information.
We’d like to apologize again for the mistakes we made with Buzz.”
Lets hope Google have learned their lessons, and don’t make any more mistakes with their upcoming social products.