Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Consumer Privacy Groups Ask FTC to Probe Google Policy Change


Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles) /
The Federal Trade Commission is, once again, being asked to investigate Google over allegations the tech firm’s policy change this past summer violates user privacy.

Consumer Watchdog and Privacy Rights Clearing House filed a complaint with the FTC last week, saying the June 28 policy change hands Google the ability to put together profiles of people who use Google’s search and services.

The complaint alleges the policy change violates Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act as well as the terms of the “Buzz Consent Agreement” Google signed with the agency.

The Buzz Consent Agreement was born in 2011 after the FTC determined Google had violated its own privacy policy when launching Buzz, its unsuccessful social network meant to compete with Facebook. As part of the pact, Google, if it changes the way it shares data, must receive informed consent before sharing users’ information with third parties.

Consumer Watchdog and Privacy Rights Clearing House are urging the FTC to “claw back all advertising revenue earned by Google since the date of the change, citing past privacy violations by the internet giant as evidence that lesser penalties would not be enough to make the company respect consumers’ privacy rights,” according to a Consumer Watchdog blog post.

“Fines Google has faced so far are but pocket change for Google. The company’s executives consider it merely the cost of doing business as they willfully violate our privacy,” Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John M. Simpson said in the blog post. “The FTC must take meaningful action to stop this serial abuser and force it to give up its ill-gotten gains.”

Google, in a statement to The Washington Post, said it has done nothing wrong.

“Before we launched this update, we tested it around the world with the goal of understanding how to provide users with clear choice and transparency,” the company told the publication. “As a result, it is 100 percent optional — if users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged.”

The FTC has not said yet if it will launch an investigation but did say it was “reviewing” the newly-filed complaint.

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