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EPIC Files Suit To Block Google’s New Data Policy

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Thu, Feb 9, 2012 at 4:26 pm

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EPIC Files Suit To Block Google’s New Data Policy

Our friends at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) went to court Wednesday to block Google from combining data gathered from its various services without users’ consent.

The Internet giant recently announced it would consolidate more than 60 privacy policies into one and that it would combine a user’s data collected on various sites into one profile. What you did on YouTube would be commingled with data from your search queries and your Gmail account, for example.

Google has spun this as being aimed at “improving the user

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experience.” In fact, it’s all about amassing even greater digital dossiers on people so they are better targets for advertising. Remember, our information is Google’s lifeblood. We’re not Google’s customers; we’re the product.

The big problem with Google’s unilateral action is that it appears to violate the terms of the “Buzz” consent settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. I called for the FTC to determine if there’s a violation last week. Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) asked the same question in a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.

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 consent

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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.
EPIC today filed a complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in Federal Court in Washington. It wants to compel the FTC to act before the new policies are implemented March 1.

Google’s plan raised concerns in Europe, where the Article 29 Working Party, a group representing European data protection officials, asked Google to “pause” implementation of the new polices until the group could determine how they affect users’ privacy. The French data protection agency is taking the lead in the analysis. So far, Google has rebuffed the European request.

“We believe Google went way over the line in a variety of ways,” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC’s executive director, told USA Today. I couldn’t agree more.

The best thing that could happen now is for the FTC to act immediately and block Google’s arrogant, unilateral action. Then there’d be no need for a hearing on EPIC’s motion.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 361 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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