Legal Challenge to Google Privacy Policy Is Baseless, US Says

Saturday, 18 Feb 2012 07:32 AM

 

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A privacy group should lose its bid for a court order forcing the Federal Trade Commission to challenge Google Inc.’s changes to its privacy policy, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has no basis in the law to compel the FTC to take enforcement action against Google, said Drake Cutini, a Justice Department lawyer, in a filing yesterday in federal court in Washington. The privacy group sued Feb. 8, claiming Google’s planned changes to its privacy policy violate a consent order requiring the search engine company to protect consumer data.

The group said in its complaint that the FTC should sue Google. The consent order stems from a lawsuit that the group, known as EPIC, filed against Google.

“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,” Claudia Farrell, an FTC spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

“There can be no question that the Federal Trade Commission has a duty to enforce its final order in the Google matter,” Marc Rotenberg, EPIC’s executive director, said in an e-mail.

YouTube, Android

Google, the world’s most-popular search engine, announced plans on Jan. 24 to unify privacy policies for 60 services and products including YouTube videos and Android software for mobile phones. The move, set to take effect March 1, would simplify conditions for user agreements, the Mountain View, California-based company said.

EPIC said the plan would allow Google to combine more information about users, reduce users’ control of their own data and give more personal information to advertisers.

The FTC’s 2011 settlement with Google over privacy, which barred sharing user data outside the company without clear permission, stemmed from a complaint filed by the advocacy group in 2010.

Under the consent decree announced March 30, Google agreed it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies when it introduced its Buzz social-networking service in 2010.

The 20-year settlement bars Google from misrepresenting how it handles information and obliges the company to follow policies that protect consumer data in new products.

The case is Electronic Privacy Information Center v. Federal Trade Commission, 12-00206, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).


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