Together, many criticized Google immediately after Buzz's launch for incorporating into the new network a feature that automatically adds Gmail users' contacts. A number of skeptics, including a coalition of 10 House lawmakers, have since petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Google has since "appropriately secured" that information.
Privacy leaders who signed Monday's letter noted Google had responded to some of those early concerns, eventually requiring all users to confirm their privacy settings before accessing their Buzz accounts. However, they still questioned why a tool "with such significant privacy issues was launched in the first place."
"We would have expected a company of your stature to set a better example," they continued. "Launching a product in “beta” form is not a substitute for ensuring that new services comply with fair information principles before they are introduced."
The commissioners later noted that the problem is hardly isolated to Google Buzz. The 10 officials pointed to Google StreetView, a tool that allows Web users to see photos of areas plotted on Google maps, as another example of the company's questionable approach to privacy. Faces are not blurred out while old versions of Street View images are retained on Google's servers, they wrote, generating additional privacy concerns.
Google on Monday ultimately deflected those criticisms, telling reporters in a statement that they "of course do not get everything 100 percent right -- that is why we
acted so quickly on Buzz following the user feedback we received."
have discussed all these issues publicly many times before and have
nothing to add to today's letter," a spokesman added.
Still, the coalition on Monday implored Google to be more mindful of privacy before introducing new features.
"We therefore call on you, like all organisations entrusted with
people’s personal information, to incorporate fundamental privacy
principles directly into the design of new online services," they wrote.