Consumer Watchdog files Google+ complaint with FTC

A planned merger of Google+ and Gmail contact lists will allow unsolicited email, the group says

Google, through its plan to link Gmail addresses to its Google+ social network, is violating a privacy agreement the company made with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a long-time critic of the company's privacy practices said in a complaint to the agency.

Google+ also has a "flagrant and fundamental privacy design flaw" because it allows any user to add other users to his circles without their permission, frequent Google critic Consumer Watchdog said in the complaint.

"A user can be forced to be publicly associated with someone with whom they do not wish to be associated," wrote John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "People must have the right to choose with whom they are associated. Operating a social network as Google is doing in a blatant attempt to build traffic and the user base is an unfair business practice."

Google representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the Consumer Watchdog complaint.

Compounding the problem is Google's plan, announced earlier this month, to merge Google+ and Gmail contact lists, Consumer Watchdog said. The change will allow a Gmail user to send an unsolicited email message to another user without knowing the second person's Gmail address, by adding the intended recipient to his Google+ circles.

That merger of Google+ and Gmail accounts violates a March 2011 privacy settlement between Google and the FTC over Google Buzz, the company's failed first social networking experiment, Consumer Watchdog alleged.

The Google plan to merge the contact lists makes it easier to send unsolicited email than Google+ competitor Facebook does, Simpson said in an email.

Facebook's messaging feature is "designed for communication on the Facebook platform," he said. "Google+ will deliver right into Gmail's inbox, which many  people use as a their primary account."

The merger of the contact lists violates a provision in the Buzz settlement that requires Google to obtain users' consent before sharing their information with third parties, Simpson alleged. The plan "provides a material change in the way data is shared and used," he said. "Google has announced the plan, but has offered only the option to opt out."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Tags U.S. Federal Trade CommissionInternet-based applications and servicesConsumer Watchdogsecurityregulationsocial networkinginternetgovernmentJohn SimpsonprivacyGoogle

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service

Comments

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?