Google Buzz hit by official privacy complaint

Google Buzz

Google's controversial entry into social networking, Google Buzz, has been hit by a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission by a leading privacy organisation.

The Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) filed the complaint accusing Google of a number of violations of privacy.

EPIC has asked the FTC to force major changes on Google. These include making Buzz fully opt-in, stopping the use of address book contacts to compile social networking lists and giving users "meaningful" control over their personal data.

EPIC's executive director Marc Rotenberg said: "This [Buzz] is a significant breach of consumers' expectations of privacy. Google should not be allowed to push users' personal information into a social network they never requested."

EPIC branded the creation of Buzz as "unfair and deceptive" and is arguing that it has taken control of users' information away from them. It believes Google's change in business practices and service terms violate user privacy expectations, diminish user privacy, contradict Google's privacy policy and may have violated US wiretap laws.

In response, Google said it wanted to hear directly from EPIC with regards to its concerns.

"We designed Buzz to make it easy for users to connect with other people and have conversations about the things that interest them. Buzz was launched only a week ago," it added in a statement.

"We've already made a few changes based on user feedback, and we have more improvements in the works. We look forward to hearing more suggestions and will continue to improve the Buzz experience with user transparency and control top of mind."

Google unveiled Buzz earlier this month as a social networking addition to its popular mail service. Buzz aims to allow users to share status updates, videos, photos and links with their contacts from their inbox and is aimed to win usage away from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Buzz has had a bumpy introduction and Google has already been forced to backtrack twice.

Within two days of launch, Google implemented changes that made it easier for users to hide contact lists, block followers and identify what information is public after receiving a flood of privacy complaints.

Then on Monday it tweaked Buzz's account setup procedure and made it easier for users to avoid following contacts after receiving further criticism.

EPIC is not a stranger to privacy complaints. It filed a complaint to the FTC against Facebook in December 2009.