Despite making significant changes to its Buzz social networking service (and apologizing), Google (NSDQ: GOOG) still can’t shake the ire of privacy critics. The Electronic Privacy Information Center
Electronic Frontier Foundation has now filed a complaint with the FTC over Buzz, asking the FTC to step in and require Google to make Buzz a “fully opt-in service” and to “cease using Gmail users’ private address book contacts to compile social networking lists.” (via LA Times).
EPIC says that while Google has turned off an “auto-follower” feature, so that users now have to manually approve the people whose updates they follow, the company is still making suggestions based on who users contact the most. “Google Buzz still allows people to automatically follow a user,” the foundation says. “The burden remains on the user to block those unwanted followers.” It also says that Google doesn’t make clear that the profiles Google Buzz users are required to set up are public.
(In a statement, Google says: “Buzz was launched only a week ago. We’ve already made a few changes based on user feedback, and we have more improvements in the works. We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience with user transparency and control top of mind.”)
The reaction to Buzz has similarities to the criticism that has followed some of Facebook’s moves to make more of its users’ information public; indeed, in mid-December, several privacy groups filed a complaint with the FTC over recent changes Facebook had made to its privacy settings.
Google, however, seems to have learned at least one lesson from Facebook’s privacy troubles. Two years ago, it took Mark Zuckerberg nearly one month to apologize for his company’s controversial Beacon program. By contrast, it took Google six days to do the same.
Here’s the complaint: