* EPIC says Google privacy changes hurt consumers
* Says new policy would give advertisers more data
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, Feb 8 A U.S. public interest
group asked a federal court on Wednesday to block Google Inc
from consolidating more than 60 of its privacy
policies, saying it could make it easier for advertisers to
A lawsuit by the Electronic Privacy Information Center
alleged Google violated a settlement agreement reached with U.S.
regulators last March that requires consent from the user if
changes the policy.
The group is asking the U.S. District Court for the District
of Columbia to issue a temporary restraining order and a
preliminary injunction compelling the U.S. Federal Trade
Commission to enforce the consent order.
"The Court must act now to prevent irreparable injury to
EPIC and the public," EPIC said in its court filing.
Google, whose offerings include its flagship search engine,
Gmail, YouTube and Google+ products, announced last month that
it was unifying its numerous product-specific privacy policies.
The company stressed in subsequent announcements that the
changes would not allow for any new or additional data
collection and said that most of its product-specific policies
already allowed information to be shared across product lines
when users were signed onto their Google accounts.
"We've undertaken the most extensive notification effort in
Google's history to ensure that users have many opportunities to
learn about the changes," a Google spokesman said in a
When the new policy comes into effect on March 1,
information from most Google products will be treated as a
single trove of data, which the company could use for targeted
EPIC's lawsuit argues that Google misrepresented its privacy
practices by not disclosing the benefits advertisers would reap
from access to the consolidated data of users.
The aggregated data would allow advertisers to better target
their ads, "and therefore Google's new business practices
increase the commercial value of a given user's data," the court
The group also challenged Google's claim it is not
collecting any new information. Aggregated data would give
advertisers access to information about users that they were not
privy to before, such as logged-in users' YouTube search
histories, EPIC said.
"Thus, Google will share new or additional information with
third-party advertisers without first obtaining 'express
affirmative consent' from Google users," EPIC charged in court
EPIC said the court must act to protect Internet users and
prevent, "the hazard that consumers will obtain relief under a
FTC order, only to be left without recourse if the Commission
fails to enforce its order."
An FTC spokeswoman said: "The FTC takes compliance with our
consent orders very seriously and always looks carefully at any
evidence that they are being violated."
The Google spokesman said the company had not seen the
filing so could not comment on the specifics. He added:
"Protecting people's privacy is something we think about all day
across the company and we welcome discussions about our
Google, taking heat from lawmakers, said last week that the
customers have over how data is collected and used.
U.S. regulators are already looking into whether the company
manipulates its search results to favor its own products, among