IT Compliance Advisor

Feb 13 2012   7:13PM GMT

EPIC pushes for more investigation surrounding Google privacy policy

Ben Cole Ben Cole Profile: Ben Cole

Since January, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has pushed for further Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into Google’s online consumer privacy practices. The sometimes testy back and forth got testier last week, when EPIC sued the FTC in an unusual effort to prevent implementation of a new Google privacy policy.

EPIC requested a federal judge issue a temporary restraining order and injunction requiring the FTC to enforce a consent order that Google agreed to last year. The issue has a sense of urgency, considering the new Google privacy policy (which EPIC says violates the consent order) is scheduled to go into effect March 1.

To speed the process, a federal district court judge has ordered an accelerated briefing schedule in response to EPIC’s complaint. The court gave the FTC until Friday to respond to EPIC’s complaints, and EPIC is required to respond to that by Feb. 21.

But Google has already started defending its compliance with the FTC’s original consent order: In a lengthy January self-assessment submitted to the FTC, Google’s legal counsel reported the company “is acting in a manner consistent with its public representations regarding the privacy and confidentiality of its covered information.”

So the question remains: Are the efforts surrounding the new Google privacy policy on the up-and-up, or a case of bait and switch?

Google insists the new privacy policy increases transparency and user control surrounding information tracking. EPIC and other critics, however, contend the privacy policy changes will end up helping Google’s bottom line: They say the new policy allows Google to comb user data without consent, and will unethically assist Google’s advertising by violating online consumer privacy.

What do you think? Is the new Google privacy policy more of the same, making user information available to outside parties without proper user consent? Or is Google taking the necessary steps to comply with FTC mandates to protect online consumer privacy? Or is it somewhere in between, with Google taking steps in the right direction on its privacy policy, but steps that are not nearly big enough?

Until these questions are answered, the questions surrounding Google’s online privacy practices remain.

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