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Lawyers Want FTC to Investigate Google Buzz

Macworld reports that eleven U.S. lawmakers have requested the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to look into the botched launch of Google's "Buzz" social networking platform. The lawyers claim that the product breached consumer privacy when it displayed private information by default. Although the issue has been addressed since the initial launch, the six Democrats and five Republicans want more information.

A letter to the FTC was organized by Representative John Barrow, a Georgia Democrat. The document, made public by the FTC Monday, said that the default Google Buzz settings caused a 9-year-old girl to accidentally share her contact list in Gmail with a person who had a "sexually charged" username. The incident is one of many cases where private information of Gmail users were exposed to "outsiders."

“Due to the high number of individuals whose online privacy is affected by tools like this-- either directly or indirectly-- we feel that these claims warrant the commission’s review of Google’s public disclosure of personal information of consumers through Google Buzz,” the letter stated.

Macworld contacted a Google spokesperson for a response to the FTC letter. The rep said that user transparency and control are the company's top priority. "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," the spokesperson said. "Our door is always open to discuss additional ways to improve our products and services moving forward."

Lawmakers are requesting that Google answer fours questions: will the Gmail policy be rewritten, is the company using personal information collected via Buzz to deliver targeted advertising, how the AdMob acquisition will affect consumer privacy, and another unspecified question.

The FTC is already familiar with Google Buzz, calling the launch an "irresponsible conduct."