A federal court Friday sided with the Federal Trade Commission ruling the agency's decisions regarding enforcement of a privacy settlement with Google is not subject to judicial review, but the court left open the question of the search giant's decision to change its privacy policies.
The ruling came in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), which asked the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., to compel the FTC to enforce a consent order against Google.
The consent order is part of an October 2011 settlement in a privacy case between the FTC and Google where the search giant was found to have used deceptive privacy practices.
"We take our settlement orders very seriously, but only the FTC and not outside parties should be able to enforce them," said Claudia Ferrell, a spokeswoman for the FTC. "We are pleased that the Court has rejected EPIC's unwarranted attempt to interrupt the FTC's careful consideration of the announced changes in Google's privacy policies."
EPIC's executive director Marc Rotenberg said the research group plans to appeal the decision and ask a federal appeals court to rule "that courts can require federal agencies to enforce final orders."
Rotenberg said Judge Amy Berman Jackson, however, left open questions. He quoted her saying, "EPIC has advanced serious concerns that may be legitimate." He also said Jackson said "the Court has not reached the question of whether the new policies would violate the consent order or if they would be contrary to any other legal requirements."
And Rotenberg quoted Jackson saying, "the FTC, which has advised the Court that the matter is under review, may ultimately decide to institute an enforcement action."
Google created waves Jan. 24 when it announced it was consolidating it myriad of privacy policies into a single one and would look at users as one entity across all its service. The announcement touched off a privacy debate from Washington to the European Union and nearly everywhere in-between.