SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today praised the European data commissioners for rebuking Google’s unilateral merging of privacy policies and data across its various product lines and called on the Federal Trade Commission to act to protect U.S. consumers.
“Google acted in complete disregard for legitimate privacy concerns,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “I am glad that the European Union is calling out their abuses, but am disappointed that American consumers must look across the Atlantic to see privacy rights defended. The FTC should move on this as well.”
Last January Google announced it would, effective last March 1, combine data gathered through different services that it had previously kept separate, without letting consumers agree to the new data uses. At the time Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the Article 29 Working Party, an association of the data commissioners from the European Union, wrote Google CEO Larry Page seeking to postpone the changes, while they studied their impact. Google refused and implemented the changes March 1.
The French data protection authority, the CNIL, was charged by the Working Party with determining if the law was broken. Meanwhile, in the United States 36 states attorneys general also expressed concerns about the changes.
CNIL said Google would have three or four months to comply with the data authorities’ recommendations. The company would likely face fines if they do not.
Google’s initial reaction was to stiff the regulators:
“Google’s Orwellian response demonstrates the Internet giant’s arrogance. Google executives believe they always know what’s best for everybody and see no need to listen to regulators,” said Simpson. “This approach will come back to haunt them.”
-- It's not clear enough in explaining to users what data is collected and how it will be used.
-- It's too difficult for users to opt out of data collection and combination.
-- Google doesn't make clear how long it will retain data.
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