EPIC files FOI request over first Google Privacy Report to FTC

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a Freedom of Information request to see Google's mandated privacy report to the Federal Trade Commission, which is part of April settlement with the agency.
Written by John Fontana, Contributor

The Electronic Privacy Information Center Wednesday filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking access to Google's first mandatory privacy report to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The report is part of an agreement the FTC and Google reached in April last year in a privacy case centered on Google's rollout of its Buzz social site in 2010. As part of the settlement, Google is required by a consent order to file regular reports with the FTC.

The first of those reports was filed last Thursday.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) is asking for the report to be made publicly available.

EPIC has requested that the FTC "expedite the disclosure" of the report given that Google plans to change its privacy policy on March 1st.

"With the March 1 date looming for the changes in Google's business practices, it is critical that the Federal Trade Commission release the privacy audit so that users of Google services will be able to meaningfully assess what Google is proposing to do with their data," Marc Rotenberg, executive director of EPIC, said in an email to ZDNet.

Google's announcement to cut its privacy policies down to a single one that covers a user across all of Google's services drew fire last week. On Tuesday, Google sent a letter to Congress saying its privacy policy changes were not that new.

The company said it is not collecting any new information, that users still have control of their data, that the combination of data enhances the user experience, and that users can take their data and go elsewhere.

In the letter, Google said it welcomed "the opportunity to correct some of the misconceptions that have been circulated about our updated privacy policy."

That chance may come sooner rather than later if EPIC's FOI request is granted.

The FTC by law has 20 working days to respond to the request, which would guarantee that the Google privacy reports are available before the March 1 date if the records are indeed released. The FTC, however, could seek a 10-day extension to review the request.

To qualify for expedited processing, EPIC must show either "failure to obtain the records quickly could pose an imminent threat to the life or safety of an individual; or your primary job is to disseminate information and there is an urgency to inform the public about actual or alleged Federal government activity."

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