Outgoing Federal Trade Commission member Pamela Jones Harbour on Wednesday hammered Google for what she said were the company's "irresponsible" privacy efforts.
While Harbour lambasted most Web firms, including Facebook and Microsoft, for failing to protect consumers' data, she took particular issue during the FTC's privacy summit with Google.
"I am especially concerned that technology companies are learning harmful lessons from each other's attempts to push the privacy envelop," Harbour said during the summit, as first reported by PC World.
She later described Google's decision to launch an opt-out version of Buzz this February as an example of "irresponsible conduct," as the service automatically followed Gmail users' most popular online contacts, sometimes without their permission or knowledge.
"When users created Gmail accounts, they signed up for e-mail services,"
she explained "Their expectations did not include social networking."
But Google fired back late Wednesday, stressing it has responded quickly and effectively to consumers' criticisms. A company spokesman added that privacy is always a "top of mind" concern for Google.
"When we realized that we'd unintentionally made many of our users unhappy, we moved quickly and made significant product improvements to address their concerns within 48 hours of launch," explained Google spokesman Brian Richardson. "Our door is always open to additional feedback as we continue to make improvements."