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Lawsuit Targets Google's New Privacy Policy, FTC Settlement

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

A consumer watchdog group is trying to block Google's controversial new privacy policy -- by suing the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has until Friday to respond to the suit.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center's lawsuit seeks to compel FTC regulators to enforce the Commission's 2011 settlement with Google, The Los Angeles Times reports. Google's proposed privacy policy, set to kick in March 1, violates the settlement, EPIC's lawsuit asserts.

A federal court last week approved an accelerated briefing schedule so the EPIC suit can be heard before Google's planned rollout. The court gave the FTC until Feb. 17 to respond to EPIC's claims, ZDNet reports.

At issue is Google's new privacy policy -- a plan to share user data across all of the company's various services. So if a user signs-in to a Google service like Gmail, Reader, or YouTube, search results and ads will better reflect the user's interests, Google says.

Google will not share a user's data with any non-Google websites, the company insists. The Google-FTC privacy settlement prohibits Google from doing that without permission.

But EPIC fears Google's plans will allow the company to share personal information with advertisers. The consolidation of user data across Google services also "is a clear misappropriation of customer information," EPIC's lawsuit claims.

Further, there's no way for Google users to opt out, EPIC's director complained to the Times. "This has to be the user's choice, not Google's choice," he said.

The FTC can fine Google as much as $16,000 a day for violating the settlement's terms, Bloomberg reports. EPIC's FTC Google privacy lawsuit seeks a restraining order and an injunction, and will be heard in federal court in Washington, D.C.

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