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Danny Goodwin

Last Ditch Efforts to Halt New Google Privacy Policy

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Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)Even as users remain ignorantly blissful, last-ditch efforts continue to prevent Google’s new privacy policy from being implemented this Thursday, March 1. French regulators call the policy unlawful while privacy group EPIC continues its fight.

French Regulator: Google Policy Unlawful

Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin from the Commission Nationale de L'informatique et Des Libertes (CNIL), which is leading the Article 29 Working Party's investigation into Google's changes, said Google’s new privacy policies don’t conform to European laws.

"Our preliminary analysis shows that Google's new policy does not meet requirements of the European Directive on Data Protection, especially regarding the information provided to data subjects," she said in a letter. "The CNIL and the EU data protection authorities are deeply concerned about the combination of personal data across services: they have strong doubts about the lawfulness and fairness of such proceedings."

The group wants Google to pause its “vague” new policy, but Google dismissed the concerns.

"We are confident that our new simple, clear and transparent privacy policy respects all European data protection laws and principles," Peter Fleischer, Google's global privacy counsel, wrote in response to CNIL. "We have notified over 350 million authenticated Google users and provided highly visible notifications on our home page and in search results for our non-authenticated users. To pause now would cause a great deal of confusion for users."

"Over the past month we have offered to meet with the CNIL on several occasions to answer any questions they might have, and that offer remains open," a Google spokesperson said. "We believe we've found a reasonable balance between the Working Party's recommendations: to ‘streamline and simplify' our policies while providing ‘comprehensive information' to users."

EPIC Fail?

A federal court dismissed a lawsuit the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) brought against the U.S. Federal Trade Commission late last week. EPIC sued Google earlier this month, claiming Google’s new policy violated a consent order Google signed with the FTC last year.

U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson didn’t agree, and basically told EPIC it isn’t the court’s job to tell agencies like the FTC how to do their job.

But that didn’t stop EPIC from filing an “emergency appeal” in the hopes of getting the decision overturned and the lawsuit reinstated – or else EPIC and the public at large will suffer “irreparable injury.”

Will the FTC act, even if EPIC’s appeal is denied? Perhaps. One comment making headlines is from FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, who on C-SPAN called Google’s new privacy policy "a fairly binary and somewhat brutal choice that they're giving consumers."

Google's response, via a spokesperson:

“Our updated Privacy Policy will make our privacy practices easier to understand, and it reflects our desire to create a seamless experience for our signed-in users. We’ve undertaken the most extensive notification effort in Google’s history, and we’re continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services. The privacy policy change mainly affects users with a Google Account, and you can continue to use many of our services — including Search, Maps and YouTube — when you are logged out.”

Google Users Oblivious to Privacy Brouhaha?

Meanwhile in the UK, only 12 percent of Google users have bothered to read the updated privacy policy, according to a YouGov/Big Brother Watch survey, while 65 percent weren’t aware the change starts this week, and 47 percent were unaware of any changes to Google's policies.

If you’re just learning of this now and freaked out, there’s a really simple process for removing your search history from Google:

  1. Sign into your Google account
  2. Go to https://www.google.com/history
  3. Click "remove all Web History" (Note, if your only option is “Turn Web History on”, then Google doesn’t have this info attached to your account.)
  4. Click OK

Feel better?

As we’ve previously reported, this change was mainly aimed at connecting YouTube and web search history. Google has collected the same data for years, and has given itself the ability to combine information with other Google services in its privacy policies dating back to 2005.

But Google’s users don’t read privacy policies. Or notifications or stories about privacy policies either, apparently.


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