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Privacy Group Sues FTC to Stop New Google Privacy Policy

Danny Goodwin
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legalThe Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is suing the U.S. Federal Trade Commission in the hopes of stopping the new Google privacy policy, which is set to become effective March 1. The complaint was filed today in a Washington, D.C., federal district court.

EPIC alleges that the changes to Google’s privacy policies, which will allow Google to combine user data across all of its properties “without user consent,” violates a consent order Google signed with the FTC last year related to Google Buzz.

"Google’s recent announcement that the company intends to consolidate users’ personal information without individuals’ consent violates the consent order and threatens to harm consumers," according to the complaint. "The FTC is required to enforce the consent order. But the Commission has failed to due [sic] so."

The suit also alleges that the privacy policy change will "make it possible for advertisers to gain access to personal information which was previously unavailable to them." 

A Google spokesperson told Bloomberg this isn't true: “We are not collecting any new information or sharing it with third parties.”

Google announced plans to consolidate more than 60 policies into one “simplified” easy-to-read privacy policy, that Google said “makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.”

In the hours after the new privacy policy was announced, the lack of an “opt out” became the big issue, and many accused Google of going evil (yet again). With growing pressure from lawmakers, Google reminded everyone that you don’t have to log-in to use all of Google’s services (e.g., you don’t have to sign into a Google account to search or view videos on YouTube).

Executives went to Washington, D.C., to defend the privacy policy changes, though it didn’t seem to solve much. Meanwhile, the EU asked Google to hold off on implementing the policy, though Google wasn’t receptive to that idea. Google also dealt with public attacks by Microsoft.

Google has not yet commented on the lawsuit. You can read the full complaint (PDF) here.


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