Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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The Buzz About Google Buzz.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | February 20, 2010

The introduction of Google Buzz, a new social media feature of gmail accounts, has raised privacy concerns.  A Complaint filed with the FTC and a class action suit filed in California are the first shots fired in the battle.

Unless you are colorblind, you’ve probably noticed that PLBT has installed a button for Google Buzz at the end of each post — even the ones that were written long before Google ever buzzed.  If you are a gmail account user, you know by now that you can share the post with your frequent email correspondents.  Not being a gmail customer, the author hasn’t tried to use Google Buzz. Moreover, reviewing the latest web gadgets is not the mission of Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk.  But there are plenty of on-line venues, such as PC World, who will tell you all that you want to know and will give you the pros and cons of buzzing.

However, there is a legal slant on the Google Buzz phenomenon. Jurist reports that a consumer group has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that the service invades the privacy of its customers by causing unsuspecting Buzz-users (Buzzers?) to reveal private information to the whole world wide web, like the entries in their gmail address book.

A similar theme appears in a class action suit filed in California reported by the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

Google reacted quickly to these concerns and added a feature to Buzz enabling customers to opt out or  limit the specific entries on the Buzz list even before the FTC complaint was filed.  However, the FTC complaint is demanding that Google require gmail users to “opt in” to Buzz.  Whether Google may may decide to adopt additional measures remains to be seen.

Of course, privacy is a two sided coin.  The recipient’s privacy may be at issue also.  Spammers and their robotic slaves are constantly trolling the web for email addresses.  Should we hesitate to correspond with gmail accounts in the future?  Obviously businesspeople and professionals,especially lawyers, with gmail should opt out of Buzz, just in case.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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