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Consumer Watchdog Praises European Action on Google’s New Privacy Policy, Calls For FTC To Determine If Proposed Changes Violate Consent Agreement

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Fri, Feb 3, 2012 at 11:43 am

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Consumer Watchdog Praises European Action on Google’s New Privacy Policy, Calls For FTC To Determine If Proposed Changes Violate Consent Agreement

SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today praised European data protection authorities for asking Google to delay implementation of its new privacy and data policies and said the U.S. Federal Trade Commission should determine whether the new policies violate the terms of Google’s consent agreement with the commission.

Under the new policies, announced by Google last week, the Internet giant would combine data from different services that it had kept separate in the past.

“Google is making a huge change that weakens your privacy protection,” said John M. Simpson, Director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project. “I am glad the Europeans have taken the lead on this, but now it’s imperative that the FTC determine if Google has violated its consent agreement.  I think they have.   Google is using your data in a new way and not making the change on an opt-in basis as the consent agreement requires.”

Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, an association of the data commissioners from the European Union, wrote Google CEO Larry Page seeking the delay in implementing the policies, due to go into effect March 1.

“Given the wide range of services you offer, and popularity of these services, changes in your privacy policy may affect many citizens in most or all of the EU member states,” wrote Kohnstamm. “We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated procedure.”

He said the French data protection authority, the CNIL, would take the lead in the analysis.

Click here to read his letter.

Google’s consent agreement with the FTC came as a result of the “Buzz” debacle in which the Internet giant displayed users email addresses without their consent as it tried to launch a social network. Under the terms of the agreement, Google can’t use data it has collected in new ways unless users opt in to the new use.

Click here to read the consent agreement.

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Consumer Watchdog is a non-partisan U.S. public interest organization with offices in California and Washington, D.C.  For more information, visit us on the web at

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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