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Google Buzz prompts legal action by US woman


 

Google Buzz prompts legal action by US woman

Google’s new real-time social network tool, Google Buzz, has prompted an American woman to file a class action complaint against the company.

By Emma Barnett, Technology and Digital Media Correspondent
Published: 4:00PM GMT 18 Feb 2010

Google Buzz launches- Sergey Brin

Google co-founder Sergey Brin on hand for the launch of Google Buzz Photo: REUTERS

Eva Hibnick, a woman from Florida, instructed her US law firm yesterday to file the complaint against Google in San Jose’s federal court, alleging that the company had broken the law by using the new tool to share her personal data without her consent.

The complaint claims that Google has broken several electronic communications laws. Hibnick is seeking an unspecified amount of financial compensation and also an injunction to prevent Google from being able to take similar actions in the future.

Google Buzz, which allows Gmail users to update their status for other Gmail users to see and easily share content from YouTube and Picasa, is being seen as Google’s attempt to compete more closely with Facebook and Twitter. However, since its launch last week, Google has faced a barrage of privacy complaints.

Earlier this week Google bowed to public pressure and diasbled particularly controversial features -one of which gave users a ready-made circle of friends based on their most frequent email and chat contacts in Gmail.

The Google feature was heavily criticised because it revealed to the world who each user emailed the most. Many also did not want contacts whom they emailed regularly for work purposes to be included in their online social circle.

Buzz will now only suggest who users may like to include as their friends.

The site was criticised further because users of Gmail were automatically joined to it. This forced the company to put a tab in the email facility to make it easier to turn off.

Buzz also no longer automatically connects Buzz to Picasa photo albums and Google Reader items.

However, only two days after Google announced the changes, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging the company had violated consumer protection laws.

Despite the changes, EPIC said privacy violations remain because Google automatically signs up Gmail users for Buzz, rather than waiting for them to do so themselves, or "opt in" for the service. The company gives users the option to disable the new service.

EPIC wants the FTC to require that Google make Buzz an opt-in service. It also wants the company barred from using Gmail address book contacts to compile social networking lists.

"This is a significant breach of consumers’ expectations of privacy," EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg said in a statement. "Google should not be allowed to push users’ personal information into a social network they never requested."

In response to the EPIC complaint, Google said it already has made some changes to Buzz based on user feedback and has "more improvements in the works."

Yesterday, Canada’s privacy commissioner joined the ever-growing number of Google Buzz critics, accusing the company of breaching privacy laws.

"We have seen a storm of protest and outrage over alleged privacy violations and my office also has questions about how Google Buzz has met the requirements of privacy laws in Canada," Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart said in a statement.

Google was unavailable to comment on the latest rounds of Buzz criticism or the filing of the class action complaint.

Separately Google has acquired reMail – a mobile email search service which was available, until the deal, through the Apple App Store. The app has now been removed to tech enthusiasts’ dismay and no plans for how the service will be integrated into Gmail have been revealed by Google.

Google Buzz prompts legal action by US woman – by the www.telegraph.co.uk

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February 18, 2010 - Posted by | Blogroll, Entertainement, People, Politics, Uncategorized

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