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US lawmakers urge trade commission to scrutinise Google Buzz

As much privacy as a goldfish in a bowl

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

US lawmakers are calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to probe privacy complaints about Google's Buzz, following a tirade of grumbles that greeted the creepy injection of the real-time Twitterbookish tech into Gmail in February this year.

On 25 March, 11 American lawmakers from the House of Energy and Commerce Committee penned a letter (link courtesy of Paid Content) to FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz, asking his office to investigate allegations that Google revealed personal details of its users without first securing their consent.

"Due to the high number of individuals whose online privacy is affected by tools like this - either directly or indirectly - we feel that these claims warrant the commission's review of Google's public disclosure of personal information of consumers through Google Buzz," reads the letter.

Last month the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a similar complaint with the FTC.

According to the letter, the lawmakers welcomed Google's response to Gmail users, who complained bitterly about Mountain View's pathetic privacy oversight when it launched Buzz.

The company was forced to tweak the feature to appease Gmail users who did not like Google's stealth dump of Buzz within their online email system.

"Google has since made several changes to the service to fix this, and we commend these efforts," reads the letter.

"While we are glad to hear that Google is working on these problems, we remain concerned that personal information was publicly disclosed without notice or choice and as yet to be appropriately secured."

In the same missive, the lawmakers said they were worried about children being put at risk by the privacy flaws found in Buzz.

Earlier this month an outgoing commissioner with the FTC laid into Google for the privacy-envelope-pushing launch of Google Buzz, which she characterised as "irresponsible conduct".

In response to the latest complaint, Google reasserted to the Los Angeles Times that it did respect its Gmailers' privacy online.

"User transparency and control are very important to us, and we review all products carefully before we roll them out. When we realised that we'd unintentionally made many of our users unhappy, we moved quickly to make significant product improvements to address their concerns," it said. ®

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