On March 30, the FTC announced that Google had settled charges that it engaged in deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises when it launched its social network called Buzz. The FTC stated that this is the first FTC settlement in which a company agreed to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumer data. Google also agreed to independent privacy audits for the next 20 years.
According to the FTC complaint, when Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product, it led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network. However, the FTC claimed that the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective, confusing and difficult to find, and the disclosures about what information would be shared were inadequate. In response to the Buzz launch, Google received thousands of complaints from consumers who were concerned about public disclosure of their email contacts which included, in some cases, ex-spouses, patients, students, employers, or competitors.
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