Google agreed to implement a comprehensive privacy program and will submit itself to regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years, according to the agreement, the FTC said in a statement.
The Agency had alleged in a complaint (PDF) that Google violated the FTC Act when it used information from the accounts of Gmail users to populate its new Buzz social network, in violation of the privacy agreement that Gmail users received when signing up for the service. Google never got consent who signed up for its free Gmail e-mail service to use that data, and also surreptitiously enrolled them in the Buzz network despite creating the impression that Gmail users could opt out of it.
As part of the settlement with the FTC, Google will cease misrepresenting the privacy or confidentiality of users data and obtain user content before sharing that information with third parties, the FTC said.
In a blog post, Alma Whitten, Google’s Director of Privacy, Product & Engineering, said the company “fell short of our usual standards for transparency and user control” when it launched, “letting our users and Google down.”
The company said it will ask users to give affirmative consent before changing how the company shares their personal information. Whitten apologized for the mistakes Google made when launching Buzz.