American authorities investigate Google Buzz

Lack of privacy on Buzz costs Google 8.5 million

A privacy group filed a Buzz complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that Google’s service violates federal consumer protection laws.

The complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) was filed this Tuesday, a week after the launch of the service that integrates social networking features in Gmail – and a few days after the company made (twice) changes to to face the criticisms pointed to the lack of privacy conferred by the mechanisms of Buzz.

According to the EPIC public statement, Buzz constitutes a «significant breach of consumers ‘privacy expectations» from Google’s email service – which should safeguard their users’ personal information.

According to the organization’s executive director, «Google should not be allowed to put users’ personal information on a social network without their request.»

When Buzz was launched, it automatically generated networks based on the Gmail contacts most used by each user, placing them as their «followers» and sharing information about them without the need for authorization from those targeted. With the last two changes, he started to suggest members that the user can choose to follow and allow them to follow him or not.

EPIC argues that the measures taken by the company are not enough – starting with the fact that all Gmail users see the «Buzz» feature integrated into their email boxes, without ever having asked for it – and asks for a system that is completely «opt in» (which requires an expression of desire for its activation).

It also asks Google to stop using Gmail’s private address books to generate social networks and to give users effective control over their personal data.

In response, the company claims that it guarantees control over the service because despite adding the Buzz button to all Gmail accounts, users may or may not activate it, and it also allows its deactivation. He added that he has made changes according to the reactions of users and that he is preparing new «improvements».