Google Buzz ‘breaks privacy laws’ says watchdog

A leading privacy group has urged US regulators to investigate Google’s new social networking service Buzz, one week after its launch. The Electronic Privacy Information Centre (Epic) has made its complaint to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It says that Buzz – which is part of Google’s Gmail service – is “deceptive” and breaks consumer protection law. The search giant has twice made changes to the service to placate an outcry from users about privacy concerns. Canadian officials are also looking at whether Buzz violates privacy laws. Buzz was automatically rolled out to Gmail’s 176 million users. The FTC has been asked to “require Google to provide Gmail users with opt-in consent to the Google Buzz service”. Since launching Google Buzz as part of Gmail last week, the search giant has faced a torrent of criticism regarding privacy. The feature that attracted the biggest outcry was one which automatically gave users a ready-made circle of friends to follow based on the people they emailed the most. Privacy advocates said that meant the list of contacts was open for all to see and could have had serious implications for journalists, businesses or even those conducting illicit affairs. Engineers have now replaced the auto-follow feature with one that suggests who to follow but EPIC said that still leaves the “user with the burden to block those unwanted followers”. The organisation also wants the company barred from using Gmail address book contacts to make up social networking lists. Google has apologised and said it acted quickly to address concerns including introducing a new option to disable the service.


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