The FTC announced today that it entered a consent decree with Google in relation to its launch of Google Buzz. The FTC alleged that Google violated Section 5 of the FTC Act because it allegedly falsely represented to users that users’ mail information would only be used for the purpose of providing web-based mail, and that Google would seek user consent before using information for another purpose. In reality, the FTC alleged that Google did not adequately disclose that information would, by default, become public. Moreover, the FTC alleged that Google misrepresented its compliance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework.
The consent requires Google to not misrepresent the privacy and confidentiality of certain forms of “covered information”, as well as compliance with any privacy and security program, including the Safe Harbor program. What is notable is that the consent identifies IP Address, or other persistent information, as covered information. Covered information includes: (a) first and last name; (b) home or other physical address, including street name and city or town;(c) email address or other online contact information, such as a user identifier or screen name; number and mobile telephone number; (d) persistent identifier, such as IP address; (e) telephone number, including home telephone number and mobile telephone number; (f) list of contacts; (g) physical location; or any other information from or about an individual consumer that is combined with (a) through (g) above.
The consent also requires Google to give clear and prominent notice, and acquire affirmative consent for information sharing occurs in certain circumstances, as well as the establishment and maintenance of a comprehensive privacy program, as well as biennial reports, and other standard requirements.
The consent is notable because of nature of the case, but also because of the information that is identified in the consent as covered information, and this definition is similar to what Senator Kerry recently proposed in draft legislation. It is also notable because it represents another matter in which the FTC has attempted to enforce in a situation with international concerns.
Links to the complaint, the consent, and the other documents can be found here.