The Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) today filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that Google’s move to consolidate its dozens of privacy policies violates an agreement the company reached with the FTC to settle privacy complaints about the now defunct Google Buzz.
The CDD says Google has failed to inform users that its advertising and marketing plans are the “driving force” behind the policy change and neglects to tell users how data collection, profiling and targeting practices could violate their privacy. Google maintains that integrating all of its disparate privacy policies will make it simpler for users to understand and easily allow it to combine personal information of users across multiple products and services for a better user experience.
However, the CDD complaint alleges that the move is really designed to improve advertising.
“In particular, Google fails to inform its users that the new privacy regime is based on its own business imperatives: to address competition from Facebook’ to grow its capacity to finely profile and target through audience buying; to collect, integrate, and utilize a user’s information in order to expand its social media, social search, and mobile marketing activities … and generally to expand its DoubleClick (advertising) operations,” the complaint says.
Late on Friday, the FTC issued its response to the EPIC complaint in a federal court in Washington, D.C., saying: “We are asking the Court to dismiss the case because parties such as EPIC are barred by law from interfering with the proper investigation and enforcement of FTC orders.”
The FTC is hearing from a number of people about Google these days. Late last week Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Cliff Stearns (R-Florida) sent a letter to the FTC asking the agency to investigate whether Google had violated the Buzz-related settlement by overriding cookie settings in Apple’s Safari browser that were designed to block tracking of users as they bounce from site to site.
Google was blasted last week when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was taking advantage of an exemption in Safari in order to add Google “+1” buttons on ads and other content. Microsoft also says Google was bypassing similar default privacy settings in Internet Explorer too.
Elinor Mills covers Internet security and privacy. She joined CNET News in 2005 after working as a foreign correspondent for Reuters in Portugal and writing for The Industry Standard, the IDG News Service, and the Associated Press.