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Google Buzz Sued Again

Nonetheless, Google plans to bring Buzz to its corporate customers.
Google's effort to reboot its Buzz social networking service, complete with contrition and a request that users reaffirm their interest in the service, hasn't quite quelled user grievances: On Monday, attorneys representing New York resident Barry Feldman filed a lawsuit against Google charging the company with disclosing private data in violation of the Federal Wiretap Act, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Federal Stored Communications Act, and California common law.

A similar lawsuit was filed against the company in February, shortly after the launch of Google Buzz prompted widespread complaints that the service exposed sensitive information about users' contacts. And yet another legal complaint against Google Buzz was filed last month.

Buzz, a social networking layer that Google added to Gmail on February 9, provoked controversy by automatically creating a list of "followers" and a list of people the user was "following" from the user's Gmail contact list. Outrage about privacy violations followed.

Feldman's lawsuit, filed U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., alleges that "Google Buzz made private data belonging to Gmail users publicly available without the users' knowledge or authorization."

Exposed data included personal contact information, place of residence, occupation, and a list of users' frequent e-mail contacts, the complaint claims.

The complaint notes that Google has acknowledged Buzz's privacy problems and that it subsequently modified the service. It claims that the changes are insufficient to address the issues.

Nonetheless, Google is pressing ahead with the development Buzz and is working on making it available to enterprise customers, through its Google Apps suite. The company is working on refining the user experience at the moment. "But we definitely want to support sharing within a particular domain and plan to launch Google Buzz for Google Apps businesses and schools," said a Google spokesperson in an e-mail.

Google had no further specifics to share about Buzz for business customers. It's certain to face skepticism from business customers, many of whom still harbor doubts about security in the cloud.

At the moment, the company is still reassuring consumers. Todd Jackson, Google product manager for Buzz, on Monday summarized changes Google had made to address user concerns and asked that Gmail users confirm their Buzz settings. "[M]any of you started using Google Buzz before we made these changes, and we want to help you ensure that Buzz is set up the way you want," he wrote in a blog post.

On Tuesday, Google mobile software engineer Alex Kennberg said in a blog post that Google had further integrated Buzz into its mobile Web app at gmail.com.

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