Washington – Technology giant Google (NASD: GOOG) on Wednesday agreed to
settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it used deceptive
tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when it launched the
Google Buzz social network last year. The proposed settlement bars the company
from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a
comprehensive privacy program and calls for regular, independent privacy audits
for the next 20 years.
"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
According to the complaint, Google launched Buzz through its
Gmail web-based email service, and led users to believe they had an option
about whether to join.
Users were given two options: "Sweet! Check out
Buzz," and "Nah, go to my inbox."
However, the FTC alleged that
some users who clicked on "Nah…" were nonetheless enrolled in the
social network, and users who clicked on "Sweet!" weren’t adequately
informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be
made public by default.
(PDF: FTC Order)