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FTC settles with Google over botched Buzz roll-out

Google co-founder Sergey Brin

ROBERT GALBRAITH/ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS

Search giant Google Inc. has settled with U.S. regulators investigating privacy problems that cropped up in its botched roll-out of social network Buzz, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday.

Under the deal, Google agreed to set up a comprehensive privacy policy and to have independent privacy audits every two years for the next 20 years.

Launched in February 2010, Buzz initially used its Gmail customers' e-mail contact lists to create social networks of Buzz contacts that the rest of the world could see, which led to an uproar.

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Google quickly changed the settings so that contacts were kept private by default.

The FTC charged that Google was deceptive in leading its Gmail customers to believe that they could decline to participate in Buzz. Those who declined were still included in certain Buzz features.

"For users who joined the Buzz network, the controls for limiting the sharing of their personal information were confusing and difficult to find," the FTC said in a statement.

Under the settlement, if Google makes assertions about how a customers' private data will be treated it must get their consent before shifting to a less restrictive privacy policy.

Efforts to reach Google for comment were not immediately successful.

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