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Group Files FTC Complaint Against Google

I wrote back in January about Google making sweeping changes to their privacy policy — meaning wrapping up all of their 60+ products into a single policy as an attempt to solidify and simplify things; in other words, there will be a single policy for ALL Google products, so you once you sign it, your data will flow to all of the various platforms whether you use them or not.

Folks are plenty alarmed at how much information of ours Google has its hands on already, and are worried about how this consolidation of data will impact privacy.

And some folks think the new privacy policy is downright illegal.

Just a few days ago the Center for Digital Democracy filed a complaint against Google with the FTC, claiming that Google has fairly nefarious plans for our data particularly when it comes to targeted advertising. Here’s a portion of the complaint (I’ve included so much because I believe strongly you should read it all to get a good sense of the scope of the complaint):

We believe that an analysis of Google’s business operations over the last year will demonstrate the true rationale for the changes to its privacy policy—which has nothing to do with making it “easier” or “more convenient” for users. We fail to see where Google has provided to users—as it claims to have done in its “Compliance Report” submitted to the commission—”clear information in order to exercise meaningful choice regarding their continued use of Google services….” 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 (through YouTube, Google+, and Admob, for example); to extend the length of time during which users are subject to targeting and real-time auctions via its DoubleClick Ad Exchange and Display Network; to provide additional data points for its Teracent, Invite Media, and Admeld operations; and generally to expand its DoubleClick operations. Finally, Google should have explained to consumers what it told a private industry meeting—that to help fulfill its February 2011 prediction that display advertising will be a $200 billion dollar global industry, it would need to better integrate user data across platforms and application using digital ad marketing automation.

This is hardly the legal wrangles Google has faced down; the Electronic Privacy Information Center actually tried to sue the FTC to force them to penalize Google for the new policies (the case was tossed because the court didn’t have jurisdiction, but the judge did agree that there are serious concerns about Google’s new policy).

It seems unlikely, however, that anything will stop the Google privacy changes; they go into effect on March 1st. Unless the FTC acts in the next week, the changes will happen.

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