Google has settled with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy issues surrounding its Buzz social networking service.
The company said that it had struck an agreement with the FTC which will put new controls over how Google handles user privacy.
Under the agreement, Google will receive independent audits every two years, and any sharing of user information will require prior consent.
"When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honour them," said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.
"This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honour its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations."
The settlement could help to put to rest a saga that Google would rather forget, having looked to enter the social networking space last year with its Buzz platform.
Google sought to capitalise on an established user base from its Gmail platform, and Buzz was automatically activated and updated for a number of users.
The result sparked a storm of criticism from users and privacy advocates, who accused Google of sharing personal information on the Buzz service without first notifying users.
"We'd like to apologise again for the mistakes we made with Buzz," wrote Alma Whitten, Google's product and engineering director of privacy, on the Official Google Blog.
"While today's announcement thankfully puts this incident behind us, we are 100 per cent focused on ensuring that our new privacy procedures effectively protect the interests of all our users going forward."
However, some advocacy groups believe that the penalties were not nearly harsh enough. Consumer Watchdog lambasted the FTC for not levying a cash penalty.
"We appreciate this landmark privacy decision by the FTC, but Google needs to be punished and feel pain on its bottom line," said Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John M. Simpson.
"Nothing will completely stop Google from invading users' privacy until it gets hit where it hurts: its bank accounts."
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