Google Buzz Goes on with Data Privacy Violation

Bob Styran, IT audit expert
January 05, 2011 /

Another complaint against how Google manages the data of its users has been brought before the doorstep of the search giant after the inadvertent collection of emails and passwords by its Street Views cars, this time involving its Google Buzz service.

The class-action suit, filed by Manitoba resident Tyler Wereha, alleged that Google Buzz, a social media and geolocation platform built as an application for Google’s email service Gmail, has been infringing information from emails, integrating it with Facebook accounts that would eventually make it visible to a number of users. Norman Rosenbaum, Wereha’s lawyer, said that this activity of Google Buzz breaches privacy agreements since it affects everyone in a user’s contact list called “followers” even without that user’s consent.

Rosenbaum said that Google automatically activated Google Buzz in Gmail accounts of all of its users, contrary to the search giant’s claim upon launching the service that users have the discretion whether to activate it or not.

At issue was the ease with which one Gmail user can add another user to his or her Google Buzz “following” list after an exchange of at least one email. This enables a user to see the private information of another user, which includes profile, posts, work, address, contact details, and the list of “following” and “followers,” much like that in Twitter.

The suit seeks to permanently prevent the search giant from further running Google Buzz in a way that allows for unwanted disclosure of personal data to public. According to Rosenbaum, laws in Manitoba impose $5,000 fines in damages to firms that infringe data privacy.

Since its inception in February 2010, Google Buzz has been facing left and right allegations of infringing personal data of its users.

In the same month when Google Buzz was launched, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in relation to the same alleged data breach by Google Buzz. EPIC said Google was trying to transform Gmail into a social networking site which allows users to share activities and contacts, though the case with Google Buzz was without the users’ consent. It was unfair and deceptive, EPIC added.

In November 2010, Google has agreed to pay $8.5 million in settlement to the data privacy breach suit involving its Google Buzz service.

 

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