January 23, 2022

Two Consumer Groups File Complaint with FTC Over Google’s Privacy Policy Change

From a Joint Announcement:

Consumer Watchdog and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission charging that Google violated the law and an earlier consent agreement when it forced a change in its privacy policy on users in a highly deceptive manner, without meaningful notice and consent.


The Internet giant’s action, taken on June 28, is an unfair and deceptive practice, violating Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and also violates the terms of the “Buzz Consent Agreement” Google signed with the agency, the two California-based consumer advocacy organizations’ formal complaint said.

The so-called “Buzz Consent Agreement” was reached after Google released users’ personal information in violation of its own privacy policy when launching its ill-fated social network, Buzz, to compete with Facebook. Under the 2011 agreement Google said it would not misrepresent the privacy or confidentiality of individuals’ information. The Buzz Agreement also requires Google to get informed consent before sharing users’ information with third parties if Google changes the way data is shared contrary to the privacy promises made when the data was first collected. Google violated both obligations with its action in June, the complaint said.

Consumer Watchdog and Privacy Rights Clearing House asked the FTC to claw back all advertising revenue earned by Google since the date of the change, citing past privacy violations by the internet giant as evidence that lesser penalties would not be enough to make the company respect consumers’ privacy rights. For example, the FTC issued the largest fine in its history, $22.5 million, when Google intentionally hacked Apple’s privacy protections, however that fine clearly failed to deter the company’s latest privacy violation.

Read the Complete Announcement

Direct to Full Text of Complaint Files with Federal Trade Commission

Media Coverage

Google facing FTC scrutiny over privacy — yet again (via WaPo)

FTC Urged To Investigate Google Over ‘Dangerously Invasive’ Privacy Policy (via MediaPost)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.