Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

Summary: The Center for Digital Democracy says Google's real reason for changing its privacy policy is to grow its business, not make life easier for users. It wants the Federal Trade Commission to enforce a consent order, fine, penalize and seek remedies.

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TOPICS: Google
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The Center for Digital Democracy sent a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission Wednesday asking it to find Google in violation of a 2011 consent order, conduct an investigation and request the search giant postpone the rollout of its new privacy policies.

In the 16-page complaint, the CDD says Google failed to accurately and honestly inform users of the real reason for changes its privacy policy, which go into effect March 1.

The CDD claims the changes are not designed to make a users life easier, as Google has stated, but designed to fuel competition against Facebook, incorporate social media data and to boost Google's advertising business, specifically to grow its display advertising to a $200 billion business.

See also: Irreparable injury if FTC fails to police Google?Google fires back at MS privacy claimsProtecting user data in the post-PC eraCongress demands FTC investigate Google's Safari tracking

"[Google] has sugarcoated its decision in a manner designed to mislead users," the CDD said. "It should have informed them of cross-platform data integration for targeting and the privacy implications therein."

The letter was addressed to Donald Clark, secretary of the FTC, and was signed by Jeff Chester, executive director of CDD.

In October 2011, Google was found by the FTC to have used deceptive privacy practices in rolling out its Goggle Buzz social service and the search giant agreed to a consent order and other penalties as part of a settlement.

CDD is joining the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in asking the FTC to enforce the consent order, and a chorus of voices, including the European Commission, in asking Google to delay implementation of its privacy policies.

The CDD's letter comes a day after EPIC filed a court brief as part of its lawsuit against the FTC. The suit demands the agency enforce the Google consent order.

Google released a statement Tuesday reiterating what it has said previously: "Our updated privacy policy will make our privacy practices easier to understand, and it reflects our desire to create a seamless experience for our signed-in users. We've undertaken the most extensive notification effort in Google's history, and we're continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services. Of course we are happy to discuss this approach with regulators globally."

An FTC spokeswoman said the agency has received the CDD compliant, but cannot comment at this time. The FTC, however, argued last week in its lawsuit with EPIC that the group's request erodes the flexibility inherent in the FTC's enforcement authority. The agency also said an action against it would ignore precedent that prevents rulings that compel enforcement.

Google created waves Jan. 24 when it announced it would integrate its myriad of privacy policies into a single one and would combine information about users across all its services.

In its letter, CDD says Google "fails to tell users in its principal privacy change communications how such data collection, profiling, and targeting practices impact - and potentially harm - their privacy."

CDD claims Google was deceptive in suggesting that the changes will benefit consumers as part of video, blog and other announcements to its millions of users.

The CDD laid out a litany of changes in Google's user targeting and digital marketing operations as proof that privacy policy changes were designed to align with Google's business goals and not user privacy. The made reference to a 2010 complaint it sent to the FTC on digital advertising exchanges and its concerns over privacy and consumer protection.

The group said Google failed to make such information available to users as stipulated by the FTC's consent order.

CDD said Google's own research, done with Nielsen in October 2011, showed that cross-platform data gathering and targeting capabilities is required to increase advertising effectiveness across TV, PC, smartphone and tablets.

CDD said Google's privacy policy should explain that strategy to users.

In addition, CDD said the privacy policy should inform users that YouTube tracking aids in creating profiles for user targeting, better explain the use of targeting on its Ad Exchange, and accurately reflect the privacy implications of Google's "Zero Moment of Truth" initiative that incorporates user location data.

The CDD letter concluded by stating: "the evidence is clear that Google's business practices, many announced and implemented prior to the January 2012 new privacy plan, are the core reason why it is changing its policy," and asks for the FTC to investigate, hand out any necessary punishments, and "immediately request Google postpone its planned privacy changes until an investigation is complete."

Topic: Google

About

John Fontana is a journalist focusing in identity, privacy and security issues. Currently, he is the Identity Evangelist for cloud identity security vendor Ping Identity, where he blogs about relevant issues related to digital identity.

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81 comments
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  • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

    Google can do everything under the old policies anyway, all 60 of them, if anyone brothered to read them all they would know that. <br><br>There is no new power granted to Google under the new policies and no one has manage to point out where Google gains any new permissions to do new things to our data that their old policies did not allow.
    Knowles2
    • Agreed

      @Knowles2
      I read a bunch of them, was left totally clueless. I then read the new one and came away with a feeling I understood a good bit of it.
      To me, writing with the end reader understanding the EULA in mind is a big step forward.

      As for the rest, this allows Google to process the information (which they already have) easier and derive a quicker return.
      rhonin
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @rhonin You got it! Google gives you links to stop tracking and ads from companies you haven't heard of, as well as opt out options. The trick is to not sign up for services you don't want or won't use. When you do, Google shares your info with that service to make it easier on the consumer. BTW, you can go to Abine.com and download Do Not Track Plus for free. Just on this page alone it blockee 3 social buttons, 3 ad networks and 7 companies tracking the viewer. In short, if you want privacy, you can do it. Even most browsers have a private mode that disallows tracking.
        WATKINS12@...
  • stop this nonsense

    the user has agreed to use google's products and services and has no right to complain how google designs the products or uses the data collected. I smell some instigation from some envious evil companies: M$ & apple.
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

      @The Linux Geek - are you for real?<br><br>Your arguments sound like the defense claims presented by Big Tobacco who hid the fact that they deliberately infused their products with hundreds of incredients that would increase the user's addiction and induce a "high".<br><br>So you're saying that if users want to use a product then the company that offers that product can do whatever it wants with the user's data - even if that puts the user's privacy and personal details at extreme risk of malicious abuse?<br><br>Way to go. [Slow clap]
      bitcrazed
      • He's not for real

        @bitcrazed

        If he really was that uneducated, I doubt he would be able to write.
        William Farrel
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @bitcrazed
        google respects user privacy and does not abuse it maliciously.
        The rumors that it is otherwise are just FUD spread by its lame competition.
        The Linux Geek
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @bitcrazed
        u r so right
        Too much psychobabble fr me, I will use other means and only google when all else fails. I like my privacy and continue to like my privacy however hard to keep or find it these days.
        lunamountain
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @The Linux Geek
        i'm sure google abuses the user privacy along with countless other companies...you need to come back down to the real world if you believe that google does not abuse and i am not dumb
        MidnightRain38
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @lunamountain
        For real?? Psychobabel? That's the whole point of the new Google policy, to cut through legalese and tell you that your data will be used to drive content offerings to you.
        gwartnet
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @bitcrazed <br><br>I used to wonder if he/she was for real. After so many posts that are just blantantly ridiculous, I've decided that it is one of the better longstanding gaffes on ZDNet. I read those posts now with a better understanding, that he/she is likely responding to articles in the most ludicrous manner possible to see how many responses they'll catch, and absolutely cracking up each time. When viewed knowing that, they are hilarious, actually. I wait for the day he/she accidentally drops in a /s to see who's paying attention. Anyway, it's funny at some levels.
        TechNickle
    • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

      @The Linux Geek <- wow must be a slow day at the Fry Station. Back to work with you Smoke Break is over. it's the dinner time rush!
      ItsTheBottomLine
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @ItsTheBottomLine Yeah Linux Geek I've been waiting on my fries for 10 minutes now... keep this crap up you'll be busted back to sweeping floors and taking out trash...
        athynz
    • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

      @The Linux Geek [b]I smell some instigation from some envious evil companies: M$ & apple.[/b]

      That's the smell of fryer oil soaked into your McUniform... now get back to work!
      athynz
    • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

      @The Linux Geek
      Good luck with that. I just say NO. Google makes a good search engine...... NOTHING ELSE.
      If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. wake up wherever you want.
      masonjerome
  • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

    It's okay for Apple to exploit tons of workers with slave wages to make money but Google wants to come up with new advertising to increase theirs, on products that are free no less, and forget about it.
    slickjim
    • No, it's not OK for Apple exploit tons of workers with slave wages

      @Peter Perry
      anymore then it's OK for Google to exploit people's lack of understanding.
      William Farrel
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @William Farrel
        Google policies are very clear and easy to understand. Only dumb people can't comprehend them.
        The Linux Geek
      • RE: Google sugarcoated privacy policy changes to mislead users, group charges

        @William Farrel

        sad as it is, I do somewhat agree with linux geek. Google is providing a service, if users do not like the terms of the service they are more then welcome to go elsewhere. However forcing google to comply with users seems somewhat backwards as the users are not the ones providing anything.
        marksteele
      • And?

        @William Farrel

        All EULA's are written that way.
        rhonin