Technology

Lawmakers press FTC to investigate Google social networking

Ten House lawmakers are now pushing the Federal Trade Commission to
probe users’ growing privacy complaints with Google Buzz, the search
company’s new social network.

In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz on Thursday, the smattering of
House Democrats and Republicans said an investigation was essential,
given “Google’s practice of automatically using consumers’ e-mail
address books to create contact lists for Buzz and then publicly
disclosing the names of those private contacts” online.

{mosads}The lawmakers also took aim at Google’s recent overture to
purchase AdMob, a mobile phone advertising company. That deal, which
requires the FTC’s approval, could “affect competition,” the 10 members
of Congress noted in their letter, later asking the FTC to pay special
attention to any privacy concerns the buyout might eventually create.

“We are optimistic that a fair investigation… will be of benefit to
both consumers and Internet search technology companies,” the lawmakers said.

But after learning of the letter, Google on Friday stressed its “door is
always open to discuss additional ways to improve our products and
services moving forward.

“User transparency and control are very important to us, and we review
all products carefully before we roll them out,” a company spokesman
told The Hill. “When we realized that we’d unintentionally made many of
our users unhappy, we moved quickly to make significant product
improvements to address their concerns.”

However, Google’s assurances seem not to have satisfied lawmakers, who
said the company has yet to address the fact “personal information was
publicly disclosed without notice our choice and has yet to be
appropriately secured.”

Still, the 10 lawmakers now petitioning the FTC for action are hardly
alone in their quest: A number of groups, including the Electronic
Privacy Information Center, have filed complaints or threatened to seek
action against Google’s neophyte social network.

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