In an unusual legal maneuver, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is asking a federal judge to issue a temporary restraining order and injunction that would require the FTC to enforce the consent order it reached with Google last year.
“Google agreed not to combine user data without obtaining affirmative consent. They are planning to break that promise to users on March 1. That’s why we needed to file this lawsuit,” said EPIC’s executive director, Marc Rotenberg. “If some users like the Google change in terms of service, that’s OK. They should opt-in. But if other users don’t like the proposed change, they have the right to say no. This has to be the user’s choice, not Google’s choice. And the FTC must enforce its consent order to protect the rights of users to make these choices.”
A spokeswoman for the FTC could not immediately be reached for comment on the complaint filed in federal court in Washington. A Google spokesman also could not immediately be reached for comment.
[Updated 10:41 a.m., Feb. 8: A Google spokesman responded with an emailed statement: “We haven’t yet seen the filing so can’t comment on the specifics. Protecting people’s privacy is something we think about all day across the company, and we welcome discussions about our approach.”
[Updated 11:40 a.m., Feb. 8: FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell said in an emailed statement: “The FTC takes compliance with our consent orders very seriously and always looks carefully at any evidence that they are being violated.”]
EPIC has also complained about Google’s new search feature that blends information from the Google+ social network into search results to make them more personal. And it has filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get access to privacy audits of the Internet search giant, which were part of the settlement with the FTC.