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Google, FTC Reach Settlement on Buzz Privacy Case, John Kerry Wants to Go Further

google buzz iconGoogle reached a historic settlement with the Federal Trade Commission yesterday, bringing an end to the FTC's investigation into Google Buzz -- the social network that has mired the company in allegations of privacy violations.

Under the settlement, Google will have to implement a "comprehensive privacy program," and will be subject to independent audits for the next two decades. Yesterday's announcement marks the first time that the FTC has targeted a company for violating privacy rules outlined in the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework. It's also the first settlement explicitly requiring a firm to create a stronger privacy policy.

In a statement, the FTC explained what the agreement would mean for Google: "The proposed settlement bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, and calls for regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years." The company won't face any monetary penalty, but it would have to pay $16,000 every time it violates the FTC's order.

Google, meanwhile, is eager to move on. "We'd like to apologize again for the mistakes we made with Buzz," the company said in a blog post. "While today's announcement thankfully put this incident behind us, we are 100-percent focused on ensuring that our new privacy procedures effectively protect the interests of all our users going forward."

Senator John Kerry, however, thinks the Buzz settlement should set an important precedent for other companies to follow. "Baseline privacy protections in law remain common sense and this case proves it," said Kerry, who is planning to introduce a privacy bill later this year. "Google has admitted error, but Google is far from alone in the collection, use, and distribution of immense amounts of our information."

In Kerry's opinion, the FTC's settlement only proves the need for strong, industry-wide privacy regulations. "Every company should adhere to this kind of standard, not just Google, and it's best for businesses and consumers alike to have certainty about the rules and standards going forward," the Senator added. "Today's settlement underscores that everyone will be better off with clear rules of the road rooted in a specific law."

Tags: consumer, ftc, FtcSettlement, google, GoogleBuzz, JohnKerry, law, politics, privacy, socialnetworking, top, web