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Group claims Google Buzz social networking service may violate privacy laws

[JURIST] An Internet privacy advocacy group on Wednesday filed a complaint [text, PDF] with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] alleging that the new Google [corporate website] social networking service Buzz violates privacy laws. The complaint was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website] and asks the FTC to investigate possible unfair business practices, privacy violations, and to restore to users greater control over their private information, including e-mail contact lists. Google released Buzz [Google Blog post], a service built into Google's Gmail service, last week to bring about a "new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting." That release prompted almost immediate criticism [CNET op-ed] regarding the possible privacy issues that arise from making information about e-mail contacts available to others. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada [official website] has also raised concerns [press release] about privacy protections with Buzz, and has expressed interest in working with the company to address users' concerns.

Google's entry into the social networking realm has resulted in problems previously experienced by other providers, such as Facebook. In late January, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner launched a new investigation [JURIST report] into Facebook's default privacy settings. The Canadian Commissioner had previously worked with Facebook [JURIST report] in July and August of 2009 to increase users' control over privacy settings. In August, five users filed suit against Facebook [JURIST report] in US Federal Court in California, alleging that the site violates California privacy laws.

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