The FTC's Google settlement: What's the buzz?
“Sweet! Check out Buzz.”
“Nah, go to my inbox.”
That was the intriguing choice facing Gmail users last year when Google launched Google Buzz, its social network. But according to a settlement announced this week by the FTC, the company violated the privacy promises it made to Gmail users and used deceptive tactics in the Buzz rollout.
So far, so good. But then came the roll-out of Google Buzz. The service allows users to share updates, comments, pictures, videos, and the like through “buzzes” made either publicly or privately to individuals or groups of users. When Buzz was launched, Gmail users were taken to a welcome screen that announced the new service and presented the “Sweet!” or “Nah” choice. If users clicked “Nah,” the FTC complaint alleges that their info was nonetheless shared in a number of ways. First, the user could still be “followed” by Gmail users who enrolled in Buzz. Second, if the Gmail user had previously created a Google profile, he or she could appear on the public Google profiles of Buzz enrollees who were following them. Third, a link to Buzz would show up on the list of links on the user’s Gmail page. If the user clicked on that link, he or she would be taken to the Buzz welcome screen and would be automatically enrolled in Buzz without any disclosure of that fact. In other words, users would be enrolled in certain features of Buzz even if they didn’t sign up.
So much for “Nah.”
The next part of the story: The not-so-sweet results when users clicked the “Sweet!” button