The FTC Is Looking Into Google's Privacy Policies Again

Last week, consumer advocacy groups “Privacy Rights Clearinghouse” and “Consumer Watchdog” have filed a new complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Google, claiming that the tech giant has once again violated user privacy terms when it changed its privacy policy back in June. Assuming that the FTC agrees with the claims, Google might be forced to pass on advertising revenue collected since June, which – according to Consumer Watchdog privacy project director, John Simpson – could add up to billions of dollars.

Over the past several years Google has been accused of violating user privacy agreements multiple times and has been the center of numerous privacy controversies and antitrust cases, more recently in Europe and Russia. As some readers might recall, following Google’s mishandling of user data from its now-defunct Google Buzz social network earlier in 2011, the FTC decreed that Google will be subjected to 20 years of audits while promising to not misrepresent future privacy policy changes. However, Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse now claim that Google has once again violated privacy agreements when it changed its privacy policy in June 2016 in a “highly deceptive manner”. The changes introduced in June allow for the merging of data from several Google services including Google Maps, Search, and DoubleClick online advertising services. On the other hand, Google is defending its position by claiming that the changes introduced in June have been applied only after testing has been conducted among users worldwide. However, the two aforementioned consumer advocates claim that Google failed to properly explain the privacy changes to its users, leading to numerous users accepting the new terms without fully understanding the consequences. According to Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson “Google indeed has been a serial privacy violator” which is why “something needs to be done that gets their attention.”

Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse claim that following the user privacy violations in June, Google should cede all advertising revenue acquired since these changes have been implemented. According to Consumer Watchdog’s John Simpson, ad revenue since June could account for billions of dollars. Then again, Google claims that these changes have been tested around the globe before being set in place, and adds that the updated ads system is “100 percent optional – if users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged.” In the meantime, the FTC confirmed the consumer advocacy groups’ complaints and issued a statement on Monday saying that it is “closely reviewing” the allegations.

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Mihai Matei

Senior Staff Writer
Mihai has written for Androidheadlines since 2016 and is a Senior Writer for the site. Mihai has a background in arts and owned a couple of small businesses in the late 2000s, namely an interior design firm and a clothing manufacturing line. He dabbled with real-estate for a short while and worked as a tech news writer for several publications since 2011. He always had an appreciation for silicon-based technology and hopes it will contribute to a better humanity. Contact him at [email protected]