04/19/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Are Privacy Groups Being Hyper-Sensitive Over Google Buzz

Google Buzz is a week old and it has set the social networking ecosystem into a frenzy. Many opinions are polarized -- "love it" or "hate it." One of the most heated conversations has been about privacy (or lack there of). Privacy groups have taken special interest in this conversation.

I appreciate the privacy concerns and they became especially problematic when Google allowed "Auto-following."

First time you use the product you automatically follow the people you e-mail or chat with.


This then became an issue for some because that once private information became public. Google, under pressure of complaints, has made changes to the "auto-follow" this past weekend and removed this feature. One of the more vocal privacy groups has been the Electronic Privacy Information Center, EPIC. This organization has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). EPIC wants the FTC to open an investigation against Google Buzz. The filing makes claims that:

This complaint concerns an attempt by Google, Inc., the provider of a widely used email service to convert the private, personal information of Gmail subscribers into public information for the company's social network service Google Buzz. This change in business practices and service terms violated user privacy expectations, diminished user privacy, contradicted Google's own privacy policy, and may have also violated federal wiretap laws.


In Google's defense, Schmidt explains that no one was harmed by the Buzz privacy issue. He continues by explaining,

"people thought that somehow we were publishing their email addresses and private information, which was not true."

I agree that Google should have spent more time in publicly testing Buzz. The application feels like a beta and this is even more evident with the auto-follow faux pa. With that said, I do feel that Google has taken appropriate actions in resolving the matter but I would like to see was the FTC has to say about all this.