Published by LawTechie - March 31, 2011 - LawTechie

The website privacy policy is no longer a piece of obligatory boilerplate tacked on as an afterthought to your new social website: As of yesterday, the FTC has charged Google with deceptive practices over failing to follow its Google Buzz privacy policy. MediaPost reports:

When Google debuted Buzz, the service created social networks from people’s Gmail contacts. But Google designed the feature so that it initially revealed information about the names of users’ email contact if users activated Buzz without changing the defaults. That design meant that a host of confidential information could inadvertently become known, including the names of Gmail users’ doctors, lawyers or coworkers.

The FTC also said that Google had agreed to create a comprehensive privacy program and submit to independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. Google also promised to obtain users’ explicit opt-in consent before sharing their information more broadly than its privacy policy allowed at the time of collection.

Over the past month, the FTC has illustrated its intention to monitor fair trade practices in the e-commerce realm — most notably with a false advertising suit filed against Legacy Learning Systems for shilling its product. The FTC’s latest charges against Google underscore the importance of keeping your promises (or not making unrealistic promises) on the internet.

Takeaway: Internet-based companies should take extra care when drafting their privacy policies. Specifically, privacy policies should not be copy/pasted from existing sites but should be drafted to take the company’s specific services and resources into account. Treat your privacy policies as substantive rules for how you operate (policies are not published for their own sake) and, above all, do not promise what you cannot deliver.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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