FTC boos for Google’s Buzz


The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy watchdog and public interest research group, is calling foul on Buzz, Google’s recently launched social networking service. The group has filed a complaint with the FTC outlining several major grievances.

Shortly after Google launched Buzz last week, a number of users expressed dismay over the service’s loose handling of user privacy. It automatically makes the user’s Gmail address book into a public Buzz contact list, a move that is of questionable value to users and subjects some to the risk of exposing sensitive information to the wrong people.

In response to the negative outcry, Google has taken a number of steps to fix the most serious issues as quickly as possible. The company issued a public apology and transformed the auto-follow mechanism into an auto-suggest feature. They have also added a configuration panel that can be used to completely disable the service.

The complaint filed by EPIC indicates that the group is unsatisfied with the changes. It wants the service to be disabled by default and made available on an opt-in basis. Further, they also insist that the user’s e-mail address book should not be used by the service.

EPIC isn’t the only group that is concerned about Buzz. In a statement issued Tuesday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) responded to Google’s latest improvements to Buzz’s privacy model. The EFF praised Google for taking a step in the right direction, but agrees with EPIC’s view that the service still needs to be made opt-in.

via EPIC fail: Google faces FTC complaint over Buzz privacy.

Full disclosure: my life is pretty much dependent upon Google products. That being said, the entire Buzz rollout is a complete disappointment.

I know, I trusted Google too much after having been more than satisfied with the utility of everything from Search to Android OS . I assumed that someone at Google, involved with Buzz development would understand that some people use different online utilities for different worlds they operate within. Personal vs professional blogs, social interaction vs professional networking and informational news feed vs. twitter timeline. Buzz assumed that whatever I do, I wanted them integrated in one place and then publicized to any contact in my address book who signed up for Buzz.

Buzz blurred virtual boundaries between web services I use for a variety of functional purposes. Its also an overstuffed grab bag of social networking utilities that are unneeded, unwelcome or both.