Google Faces New Lawsuit over Google Buzz

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-04-07

Despite efforts to patch up privacy holes, Google Buzz continues to gain the wrong type of attention for Google. A New York man is suing the search engine for violating his privacy by exposing his Gmail contacts to the public without his consent.

Google Buzz, launched Feb. 9, lets users post comments, links, photos and videos for Gmail users' contacts to see. These contacts can then make their own comments and a social dialogue ensues.

However, initially, Gmail contacts were made public on Buzz users' Google profiles. This upset users, forcing Google to backpedal to make contacts auto-suggest instead of auto-follow and add several other privacy controls.

Still, the Electronic Privacy Information Center lodged a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and a Florida woman Feb. 17 filed a class action suit in California court, claiming Google broke the law by exposing personal data without her consent.

New York resident Barry Feldman filed his complaint April 5 in the same San Jose, Calif., court, according to Bloomberg.

Feldman alleged that Google automatically activated the Buzz program from his e-mail account and displayed his e-mail contacts and other information stored in his Google profile to other Gmail users.

He further said Google's changes "do not go far enough," and the error "already caused damage because the Buzz program disclosed private user information the moment Google launched the service."

A Google spokesperson told eWEEK, "We can't comment on the suit until we've had a chance to review it."

The suit comes as Google continues to work on the service's privacy and to fortify its efficiency as a layer built on top of Gmail. Google April 5 began displaying a confirmation settings page for users who had signed up for the service early, allowing them to pick and choose from people Google suggested that they follow.

Google April 6 said its Gmail for Mobile now shows Buzz comments in the inbox, so Buzz users will see comments on their smartphones the same way they see Buzz posted in the desktop version of Gmail, and will be able to comment on Buzz posts or mark them "like."

Google also recently improved comment collapsing in Buzz to eliminate some of the noise and chunks of comments users leave in active posts.

These changes are fine for Google, but the complaints from EPIC and U.S. lawmakers have reportedly spurred the FTC to look at the service.

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