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Privacy warriors sue FTC over Google's policy tweak

Failure to halt imminent changes makes EPIC angry

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The Electronic Privacy Information Center is suing the US Federal Trade Commission for failing to take action against Google's plans to change its terms of service on 1 March.

EPIC is concerned that the privacy policy revamp will be bad news for punters. As we've noted previously, a user of Gmail can shortly expect to be much more heavily tracked across other Mountain View sites while being logged into their Google account.

Here in Europe, the EU's Article Working 29 Group's effort to get Google to take a "pause" with tweaks to the company's privacy policy was politely ignored by the Chocolate Factory late last week.

And on the other side of the Atlantic, Google offered a detailed but at times still fuzzy response to a bunch of lawmakers seeking to better understand exactly what the policy overhaul to Google's vast online estate meant for its users.

Unlike data protection groups in Europe, the FTC hasn't asked Google to delay the heavily trailed changes to its terms of service.

Google insists the tweak is all about improved "user experience". Privacy activists counter that such a data-farming exercise has serious implications about the safeguarding of personal information online.

"EPIC alleges that this change in business practice is in clear violation of the consent order that Google entered into on October 13, 2011. The consent order arises from a complaint that EPIC brought to the Commission in February, 2010 concerning Google Buzz and a similar attempt by Google to combine user data without user consent," said the group in a statement on its website.

Google dismissed EPIC's claims.

"We take privacy very seriously," Google said. "We're happy to engage in constructive conversations about our updated privacy policy, but EPIC is wrong on the facts and the law."

The FTC could not immediately be reached for comment at time of writing. ®

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