FTC, Google Announce Buzz Settlement
PRIVACY LAW—U.S.March 30, 2011
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google have reached an agreement on the commission's allegations the company "used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers" with the launch of its Google Buzz social network last year. In its announcement of the consent decree, the FTC specifies the provisions of the proposed settlement include requirements for Google to implement a comprehensive privacy program with regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. "When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations." Google Global Privacy Counsel Jane Horvath, CIPP, CIPP/G, told the Daily Dashboard the agreement is "a very strong consent decree, which will set up bi-annual reviews of our internal privacy process by outside experts—reviewed by the FTC—and mandates affirmative consent before we change how we share or disclose personal information." The consent agreement is now open for comment through May 1. At that time, the FTC will determine whether to make the proposed agreement final. Alma Whitten, director of privacy for Google Product & Engineering, wrote today of Google's efforts to maintain user trust, including recent privacy and security improvements. But, she noted, "we don't always get everything right. The launch of Google Buzz fell short of our usual standards for transparency and user control—letting our users and Google down." The agreement with the FTC is allowing the company to look toward the future, she said, adding, "we are 100-percent focused on ensuring that our new privacy procedures effectively protect the interests of all our users going forward."