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.
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.
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