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Google unlikely to back down amid lawsuits over privacy concerns

Christina DesMarais | Feb. 20, 2012
The latest attack is a lawsuit from an Illinois man worried about how his personal information is used -- but don't expect the Internet search leader to back down.

Yet what some are dubbing "Cookiegate" or "Safarigate" is just one more complaint in a pile of security concerns that consumers, privacy groups and lawmakers have raised in the recent, and not so recent, past.

Once the Google-Safari controversy erupted, Congress called on the FTC to investigate.

Consumer privacy advocacy groups also stood up to contest Google's behavior.

The Center for Democracy & Technology said in a statement that Google's workarounds to evade browser privacy settings are unacceptable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation posted an essay that said it's time for the company to admit it can do a better job of respecting user privacy. And the Electronic Privacy Information Center sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission arguing that Google's Safari snafu violates an order Google is currently under with the FTC in which Google is supposed to be protecting the privacy of its users.

Google's Privacy Practices

EPIC had previously filed suit on Feb. 8 against the FTC to try to force it to stop Google from carrying out planned changes to its privacy policy, another much-disputed issue.

While EPIC has a long history of going toe-to-toe with Google over privacy, the issue has been particularly contentious ever since Google announced last month it would be changing its privacy policy on March 1 and consolidating user data across its products to create a single profile for each user.

Since then, Google filed a self-assessment compliance report with the FTC explaining how it protects the personal information of Google users.

Once Google's report was made public, EPIC retorted by alleging that Google did not answer many of the questions it was supposed to and it didn’t explain to the commission the impact of the changes it will be making to its privacy policy on March 1.

Lawmakers have also repeatedly taken issue with Google.

When Google announced in January it would be consolidating its privacy policies and sharing user data across its products, eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Google stating that they believed consumers should have the ability to opt out of data collection.

Google responded with a 13-page letter to Congress in which it defended its plans and said users who want their data kept separate from multiple Google services have nothing to fear as long as they take the correct precautions.

And now citizens have a new worry with the Google-Safari controversy.

Google's Next Steps

The resistance to Google's recent activities has been intense, but will the company back down?

In addition to all the concerns about privacy, many believe that Google's introduction last month of Search Plus Your World, which incorporates Google+ data with generic search results, degrades the credibility of what has traditionally been considered its core product. Some have even proposed that results from other Google products, such as YouTube, are ranked higher in the company’s search algorithm than they should be.

 

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