Google launched its Buzz social network in February, and almost immediately users and privacy advocates were speaking out. The problem? The network's auto-follow feature was turned on by default so that everyone in a user's Gmail contact list was added as a Buzz follower, whether the user wanted them to be or even realized they were.
Suddenly estranged husbands and boyfriends knew what was happening with their wives and girlfriends just because their e-mail addresses had yet to be removed from Gmail contact lists. Or someone whom the Buzz user had contacted once about a business transaction knew way too much about his or her personal life because they were automatically following each other on the service.
The Federal Trade Commission looked into several complaints and some users even filed lawsuits. Google did what it could to correct the problem, tweaking the service several times to give Buzz users more control over their follower/following lists. And now, a few short months later, the company has also reportedly reached a settlement with users who sought legal redress.
The same day the settlement was made public, Google associate general counsel Mike Yang wrote a blog post explaining how the company would be tweaking its policies to achieve more transparency. He said, in part:
As for the main Google policy, he said the company was working to make it less redundant and translate as much of it as possible into everyday English. But he cautioned it still wouldn't be a good beach read. "I am, after all, still a lawyer," he said.