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FTC Tames Google

Google has agreed to regular, independent privacy audits for the next twenty years, according to a statement released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as part of a proposed settlement over privacy breaches in Google Buzz.

According to the FTC complaint, Google launched its Buzz social network through its Gmail web-based email product. Although Google led Gmail users to believe that they could choose whether or not they wanted to join the network, the options for declining or leaving the social network were ineffective. For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find, the agency alleged.

Google's data practices in connection with its launch of Google Buzz were the subject of a complaint filed with the FTC by the Electronic Privacy Information Center shortly after the service was launched.

Google Buzz was the search giant's botched attempt at social networking (Supposed to have been a Twitter-killer, Buzz has since then become a also-ran poor cousin of the popular microblogging site).

This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers' information. In addition, this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, which provides a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States.

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