Privacy Information Center sued the Federal Trade Commission Feb. 8, compelling
the agency to halt Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) privacy-policy changes before they go
into effect March 1.
that the privacy-policy changes,
which include bringing 60 Web services under one umbrella policy and enable
Google to share data between those services, violate the consent order the
search engine entered into with the commission nearly a year ago.
Google last March settled FTC charges
used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers with
its Google Buzz social application, which exposed users' Gmail contacts to
others without users' express permission.
agreed to secure users' consent
before sharing their information
with third parties if Google changes privacy promises it made after collecting
argued Google's bid to share data between its own Web services violates the
consent agreement, filed its complaint in the Federal District Court in
Washington, D.C. The group called for a temporary restraining order and
preliminary injunction, "seeking to compel the Federal Trade Commission to
act" before March 1.
Federal Trade Commission has a non-discretionary obligation to enforce a final
order," EPIC wrote in its complaint. "But the agency has thus far
failed to take any action regarding this matter, placing the privacy interests
of literally hundreds of millions of Internet users at grave risk. EPIC
brings this Administration Procedure Act suit to require the Commission to
enforce the consent order."
Google Jan. 24 said it would funnel 60 of its 70 existing
privacy policies under one blanket policy and break down the
identity barriers between some of its services to accommodate its new Google+
social network software.
The move comes
as regulators in the United States and Europe have criticized Google, Facebook
and other Web service providers for offering long-winded and legally gnarled
privacy protocols. The biggest privacy change concerns Google's accounts.
When users are
signed in, Google may combine identity information users provided from one
service with information from other services. The goal is to treat each user as
one individual across all Google products, such as Gmail, Google Docs, YouTube
and other Web services.
change compelled Congress, Europe and now EPIC to express concern
that Google is playing fast and loose with users' data without their consent.
This is a
damning accusation after the aforementioned Google Buzz privacy imbroglio and
Street View WiSpy privacy gaffe, in which more than 600GB of user passwords,
browsing habits and other data were collected from unsecured WiFi networks.
EPIC's use of
the Google Buzz snafu in its argument must be particularly discouraging to
Google, which actually feels it has been extremely cautious, transparent and
fair in going about its policy-change disclosure.
when Congress demanded more information on the policy changes, Google responded
with a detailed letter and a sit-down meeting with concerned members of the
Senate within days.
credit, (and what may prove in hindsight to be its detriment), the search giant
has no plans to halt or revise its privacy-policy changes.
don't wish to have their data shared with existing services, can use some
services, such as search, Google Maps and YouTube, without signing into their
Google account, or simply not use Google services at all.