Tag Archives: Lawsuit

Viacom Wins Appeals Court Reversal Against Google

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...

Uh oh, looks like Google might be in a bit of a mess. Remember that epic legal battle between Viacom and YouTube a few years ago? Well, it’s being given new life.

Back in 2007 Viacom sued Google for knowingly allowing users to post copyrighted material on YouTube. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for over a billion dollars and the video-sharing site was founded in 2005. Viacom, along with other companies, believe that YouTube wasn’t doing enough to take down their content and sought over $1 billion from Google. However, Google always believed that it shouldn’t be held responsible for what its users do and the company says that it takes down copyrighted content when notified.

Viacom and Google fought over this issue for several years until June 2010 when a lower court ruled in favor of Google. The court agreed with Google’s argument that it shouldn’t be held responsible if its users infringe copyright. The court upheld an interpretation of the 1998 federal Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) that protects companies from liability for what its users do online. It was seen as a big victory for Google at the time.

Fast-forward almost two years later and this issue is back to give Google some headaches. Viacom filled an appeal in October 2011 saying that the dismissal of their lawsuit was “fundamentally flawed”.  Today, a panel of judges at an appeals court agreed with Viacom and reversed the decision of the lower court saying that it’s quite obvious that YouTube knew about the copyrighted content being uploaded but did nothing to stop it.

Viacom is obviously thrilled by the reversal and released a statement:

“This balanced decision provides a thoughtful way to distinguish legitimate service providers from those that build their businesses on infringement. The court delivered a definitive, common sense message to YouTube – intentionally ignoring theft is not protected by the law. We are confident we will prevail when the merits of our case are heard”

This also opens the door for several other companies who have issues with Google’s video-sharing website. It includes several sport leagues, music publishers, artists, and news agencies. They are delighted by the appeals court decision and will seize their chance to protect their material.

Viacom seems to have a love-hate relationship with Google. Viacom has a reputation for being quite litigious and so it suing Google is to be expected – but the two of them have also been working with each other. Viacom now has YouTube channels set up and receives revenue from it. And just yesterday it was announced that a deal was made so that online users could rent Paramount Pictures (a subsidiary of Viacom) movies from YouTube’s rental store.

Awkward….anyway, we’ll see what happens between these two as they get ready to rehash this old argument.

For more information:

The Guardian, “Judge reanimates Viacom’s $1bn copyright suit against YouTube” – click here

CBSNews, “Revived Viacom suit spells trouble for Google” – click here

The Register, “Viacom’s anti-Google copyright case rises from the dead” – click here

Reuters, “Viacom wins reversal in landmark YouTube case” – click here

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Users Sue Google At A Federal Court In New York

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Google’s customers are fighting back against the company for changing the way it does business without the full consent of its users. Consumers feel betrayed, disturbed, and wronged by Google when the company decided to consolidate its several privacy policies into one policy.

Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy took effect on March 1st, 2012. This policy now allows Google to combine your personal information from all of its products so that the company can figure you out better. The company wants to eliminate “the faceless Web”, which means that you have less privacy and Google has more of your personal data.

The new privacy policy (which many say equals to no privacy at all) allows Google to more easily sell your personal data to advertisers. Of course, the more Google knows about you the more valuable that data is to advertisers. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising.

The potential class action lawsuit against Google was filed today in a federal court in New York. The persons who filed the lawsuit are seeking monetary damages from Google for deception and are complaining that their privacy has been violated by Google.

If you recall, back in late February 36 US attorneys general sent Google a strongly worded letter saying that they have strong concerns about Google’s new privacy policy. The attorneys general urged Google to reconsider implementing their “troubling” privacy policy, or at least give users an “opt-out” option. Google refused to let users opt-out of increased data harvesting and said that if users are really concerned they can commit the ultimate opt-out by not using any Google product at all.

But the attorneys general said that ditching Google’s products altogether is easier said than done. They wrote:

“This invasion of privacy will be costly for many users to escape. For users who rely on Google products for their business – a use that Google has actively promoted – avoiding this information sharing may mean moving their entire business over to different platforms, reprinting any business cards or letterhead that contained Gmail addresses, re-training employees on web-based sharing and calendar services, and more. The problem is compounded for the many federal, state, and local government agencies that have transitioned to Google Apps for Government at the encouragement of your company,and that now will need to spend taxpayer dollars determining how this change affects the security of their information and whether they need to switch to different platforms.”

Millions of people bought into the hype and lies Google sold us for many years. Many of us thought that Google wasn’t like other companies and that it could do no evil. But Google is far from being a good, altruistic, and ethical company. Google will say and do just about anything to maximize its profits – even if it disadvantages users.

Earlier this month – a British man named Alex Hanff sued Google at a small claims court to compensate him for a new smartphone. Mr. Hanff said that he no longer can use Google’s phone after the company changed its privacy policy. He said that the changes are a “significant infringement” to his rights and that he gave Google no consent to collect even more personal data about him.

Google is facing lawsuits from all sorts of different places and for a variety of reasons. It’s also facing increasing pressure from international regulators. This is all bad news for Google, but good news for the average consumer. Keep putting the pressures on Google.

For more information:

Financial Post – click here

googleexposed – click here

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Frenchman Sues Google For Violating His Right To Urinate In Peace

 You would think that it is a simple request to ask for a bit of privacy when nature calls and you have no other option but to urinate outdoors. However, a man from a small rural village of about 3000 people in a northwest region of France found out that this was too much to ask of Google.

Now, the man is suing Google for making him a laughing stock and the subject of ceaseless ridicule. Google’s intrusive and controversial Street View service took the photo of the man urinating and published it on their website. After being made fun of by fellow villagers, he investigated what could be causing him so much grief.

He discovered a slightly blurred photo of himself on Google’s site as he was relieving himself on his property. Needless to say, he was absolutely mortified – and in a small village word sure does travel fast. The man says that despite the slight blurring of the photo, villagers were still able to recognize him. The man’s lawyer, Jean-Noel Bouillard, is quoted to have said:

“He discovered the existence of this photo after noticing that he had become an object of ridicule. My client lives in a tiny hamlet where everyone recognized him”

He went on to say that everybody should have the right to a degree of privacy, even in the outdoors. Google’s omnipresence online and offline the Internet is something that is rubbing many people the wrong way who feel that Google has absolutely no respect for the privacy of individuals.

The man was caught urinating in November 2010, from behind a close gate. But Google’s “All-Seeing Eye” ball was attached on top of their Street View equipped vehicles and has about nine cameras looking out in every direction as it records everything it sees. The All-Seeing Eye is designed to not miss a thing.

Google’s Street View service has been available in France since 2008 and was initially launched the year before in the United States. It isn’t the first time Google’s cameras have caught people in compromising situations. The cameras have caught women sunbathing in the nude, couples having sex, people naked through a window in their own home, and countless other examples of embarrassing moments in people’s lives.

In May 2010, it was revealed that Google’s Street View cars also collected unencrypted Wi-Fi data when the cars passed by houses and buildings. This caused major controversy for the company at the time and sparked an investigation.

France’s data privacy regulator imposed a record fine of €100,000 ($142,000) on Google last March for collecting private information while compiling photos for the service

Despite all this, when asked to comment on the Frenchman’s lawsuit, a lawyer for Google said that lawsuit against the company is “implausible“. 

A French court is expected to make a judgment later this month.

For more information:

AFP, “Peeing Frenchman sues Google for making him ‘laughing stock’ ” – click here (article hosted on Google’s site)

Reuters, “Frenchman sues over Google Views urination photo” – click here

 

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Federal Court Dismisses Lawsuit But Says Advocacy Group’s Concerns Against Google May Still Be “Legitimate”

Yesterday – Friday, February 24th, 2012 – a federal court denied the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, while it granted the US Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) motion to dismiss EPIC’s lawsuit.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that her hands were tied and that she really couldn’t do anything because the consent order between the FTC and Google is not subject to judicial review. The judge said that the FTC has the sole authority to take actions as it sees fit for violations of consent orders.

The consent order Google agreed to last October contained nine parts – EPIC raised three relevant parts in particular that it says Google violated:

“Part I prohibits Google from misrepresenting (a) the extent to which it ‘maintains and protects the privacy and confidentiality’ of personal information, and (b) the extent to which it complies with the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor Framework.”

“Part II requires Google to obtain ‘express affirmative consent’ before ‘any new or additional sharing by [Google] of the Google user’s identified information with any third party . . . .”

“Part III requires Google to implement a ‘comprehensive privacy program’ that is designed to address privacy risks and protect the privacy and confidentiality of personal information.”

Google’s new privacy policy will combine all your personal data from every service Google offers (YouTube, Gmail, Google search, etc.) into one detailed profile of exactly who you are. Google wants to get to know you better, to figure out exactly who you are. A Google spokesperson once said that their mission is to eliminate “the faceless web”.

What Google is basically trying to do is that they want to sell your personal data to advertisers. Advertisers love getting more detailed information of us because it makes it easier to target personalized advertisements at us. Keep in mind that Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising.

You are not Google’s customer, you are Google’s product. Therefore, think of it this way:  when Google introduces its new more intrusive privacy policy at the start of next month – think of it as them reorganizing and relabeling their inventory to make it more appealing and easier to sell.

EPIC contends that Google is in clear violation of the consent order and that the FTC has mandatory nondiscretionary legal duty to punish Google. EPIC argued that the court can compel the FTC to punish Google because it unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed action that it should have already done by now.

However, the judge felt that there was still nothing the court could do because Congress has not given it the jurisdiction to fully oversee federal agencies and force them to take actions. She cited pass decisions to back her ruling and said that ultimately it is up to the FTC to evaluate whether or not Google violated the consent order.

With that said, though – the judge made sure to emphasis that her ruling should not be interpreted as an opinion about the merits of EPIC’s challenge to Google’s new privacy policy. Judge Jackson said the court has not made any decisions on whether or not Google’s new privacy policy violates the consent order; the court simply cannot force the FTC to take any action:

“EPIC – along with many other individuals and organizations – has advanced serious concerns that may well be legitimate, and the FTC, which has advised the Court that the matter is under review, may ultimately decide to institute an enforcement action. So neither EPIC, nor Google, nor any party with an interest in internet privacy should draw any conclusions about the Court’s views on those matters from this opinion.”

After the ruling, EPIC said that it would appeal the decision on judicial review and ask a federal appeals court to rule that courts can require federal agencies to enforce final orders.

You can read Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s full ruling – click here (PDF file)

For furthur background and to read related posts I wrote on this issue – click here

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The US Federal Trade Commission Wants Privacy Advocacy Group To Back Off

 Just under two weeks ago, I wrote about The Electronic Privacy Information Center’s (EPIC) lawsuit against the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to force the federal agency to punish Google for breaking terms of its settlement with the agency. To get fully caught up or to refresh your memory, please go back and read through two of my posts discussing this lawsuit and then return back to this one: click here and here

Alright, so the federal court asked the FTC to submit their response to the lawsuit filed by EPIC by Friday, February 17th, 2012. The FTC did get back to the court by that date and basically told the court that they want the lawsuit to be dismissed because EPIC has no right to tell the FTC how to do their job. The FTC made no mention of whether or not EPIC is correct in wanting to punish Google for violating the consent order – the agency just wants EPIC not to force it to take action against Google. If the federal agency is going to take actions against Google, it wants to do it on its own. An FTC spokeswoman, Claudia Farrell, said:

“We are asking the court to dismiss the case because parties such as EPIC are barred by law from interfering with the proper investigation and enforcement of F.T.C. orders”

The issue here is that the agency is arguing that since EPIC was not a party to the settlement agreement between Google and the FTC – it should have no say whatsoever in how Google should be scrutinized. The FTC wants to reserve to right to make decisions under its own discretion.

The FTC believes that the involvement of public interest groups, business competitors, and other kinds of groups imposing themselves into the business of the FTC will give too much power to these groups. However, EPIC is arguing that the Federal Trade Commission Act creates a non-discretionary duty for the FTC to act on violations of consent orders. EPIC just wants the FTC to acknowledge the obvious violations by Google and punish Google quicker because time is of the essence here since Google vowed that it would start consolidating and further monetize personal data of its users starting March 1st. Epic’s executive director, Marc Rotenberg, said:

“There can be no question that the Federal Trade Commission has a duty to enforce its final order in the Google matter”

The FTC should get its act together and do the right thing here. Stop stalling for time and getting your feelings hurt because an advocacy group is telling you how to do your job better. EPIC does not want to “deprive the Commission of the discretion to exercise its enforcement authority“; it just wants the agency to see the obvious and then appropriately act on it swiftly.

The irony is that the same day the FTC filed an opposition and a motion to dismiss EPIC’s lawsuit, the Wall Street Journal exposed Google for spying on Apple users.

EPIC is expected to respond to the federal court tomorrow, February 21st.

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Big Google Is Slapped With A Lawsuit For Tracking Man’s Apple Web Browser

 There is more fallout from the latest Google privacy violation that got everybody talking. Now, an Illinois man is determined to get back at Google for allegedly exposing his personal data and spying on him. Matthew Soble has filed a lawsuit against Google less than 24 hours ago in a federal court in Delaware.

Attorneys representing Mr. Soble are arguing that Google willfully and knowingly violated federal wiretapping laws and other statutes. Attorneys for the man are not just stopping there, they are seeking a class-action status for their lawsuit so that all individuals “whose default privacy settings on the web browser software produced by Apple, known as Safari, [and] knowingly circumvented by Google” can also seek justice. Since Apple’s web browser is used by most people who use mobile devices, this class-action lawsuit can result in millions of people going after Google.

When asked by the media to respond to the lawsuit, Google declined to make a comment.

The case is Matthew Soble v. Google Inc. (GOOG), U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware (Wilmington).

This should be interesting. Keep an eye on this one! Big Google you allegedly spied on the wrong man.

For more information on this lawsuit, you can read Bloomberg’s article by clicking here

CBS News video explaining what happened: google-under-fire-over-secretly-tracking-users

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Federal Court Forces The FTC To Take Lawsuit Against Google More Seriously

Last week, I published on this site a post I wrote and titled – “Google is sued over privacy violations and breaking terms of settlement“. In that post, I discussed how a privacy advocacy group, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), sued the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for not doing its job adequately. If you need further detail on this, please go read that post first and then return to this one: click here

Okay, so after EPIC filed its complaint to legally force the FTC to punish Google for breaking the terms of settlement – the FTC tried to delay the process by claiming that EPIC’s complaint was without merit and that they would need an extended period of time to even review the complaint anyway. Of course, EPIC was not going to let the FTC stall for time because time is of the essence in this case as the changes to Google’s privacy policies takes effect on the 1st of March. EPIC demanded a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction designed to compel the FTC to enforce the consent order it placed on Google.

A federal court then stepped in last Thursday, February 9th, and told the FTC that its dismissal of the complaint filed by EPIC as being without merit was ridiculous. The court then forced the FTC to respond to EPIC’s complaint no later than Friday, February 17th. The court then added that EPIC will need to respond to the FTC’s investigation by the following Tuesday, February 21st.

EPIC had this to say,

“We believe the change is a clear violation of the consent order,” EPIC’s Rotenberg said Wednesday. “EPIC  filed the suit because the FTC has both the authority and the obligation to enforce its consent orders, and [Google's] changes will take place in less than three weeks if the FTC fails to act.”

As part of settlement Google made with the FTC after the whole major Google Buzz privacy violation, Google was told that it has to file mandatory “privacy compliance” reports with the FTC on a regular basis for 20 years. The first of these reports was submitted by Google to the FTC back in January, 26th, 2012. However, this self-assessment report was only made public last Friday, February 10th. EPIC actually filed a Freedom of Information Act request to retrieve the document from the FTC – but before the request could get fully processed, Google decided to release it publicly voluntarily before it would legally be forced out anyway.

Google gave the report to the political journalism website Politico and they published an article about it they very same day, as revealed yesterday by John Fontana of ZDNet.com

Okay – I have complained on here before about the way the news media covers Google and how they handle the company with kid gloves. Please do not think that I pull this observation of bias and lousy journalism out of thin air. I only report what I plainly see and what’s so evident to me.

Take for example this Politico article the website published last Friday regarding the privacy compliance report by Google and EPIC. Politico titled their article: “Google tells FTC of progress on privacy“. Now, that title alone is incredibly biased in favor of Google. You don’t even need to read the entire article because that title alone is so silly – I mean, “progress on privacy”? C’mon! That’s what Google claims, not fact!

All I am saying that the headline is not balanced and objective enough, but it’s to be expected considering that Google did after all hand deliver the report to the website and then they wrote a flattering article as a ‘thank you’.

You can read that article for yourself. But be warned though – the article defends Google a lot and paints EPIC as unreasonable whiners. Click here.

Anyhow, after the report was made public, EPIC obviously responded to it. EPIC says that the report actually now raises new questions about Google’s failure to comply with the FTC consent order. The order required Google to answer, in detail, questions regarding how it protects the personal information of its users. EPIC argued that Google chose not to answer many questions – most significantly, Google failed to explain how the changes to its privacy policies next month will impact users.

Moreover, in Google’s report, it states:

“An email will be sent to every Google Account holder, except those associated with enterprise (Google Apps) customers. A separate email will be sent to the registered administrators of Google Apps domains, so that they notify their users as they see fit.”

This means that Google sent out emails to every single person who has an account with Google’s free email service, Gmail. The emails have the subject line “Changes to Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service“. Google also claims that it sent out these same emails only to companies that use its technology to power their email service, but it only sent them to administrators and not every single person.

However, there have been complaints in Britain from people who use Virgin Media and Sky email services receiving these emails from Google too. People were upset that Google knew their email address and that the company was sending them emails on changes to privacy policies even though they are not Google users. People got creeped out by Google knowing stuff about them that even they had no idea Google knew.

Google claimed that it was glitch and that the emails should have only been sent to administrators. However, others have come forward claiming that they also received emails from Google even though they don’t hold accounts with Google at all and their email service is not affiliated with Google in any way whatsoever. Personally, I have also received that email into one of my email inbox and I have no connection to Google at all. There is more to this than Google is willing to tell us and it certainly is creepy.

The FTC’s response to EPIC’s lawsuit is due this coming Friday – I will keep you posted on how this develops.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center have a website of their own, you can visit it by clicking here

PCPro.co.uk.com article explaning the emails Google sent to people who do not hold Gmail accounts, click here

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Lawsuit: Evil Google Don’t Kill Our Cute Pets!

 A large group of people are disappointed, uh, no, actually they are absolutely incensed at Google - so much so that they brought a class action lawsuit against Google. Okay, so here’s what up:

Google is known for acquiring small businesses and startup tech companies they think can become profitable in the future. It’s definitely not the only reason to buy a smaller company – sometimes big corporations buy emerging companies to close them down before they become a real threat later on.

I have written numerous times about how Google is pretty much swimming in cash. They aren’t like most businesses because Google has billions of dollars at their immediate disposal, which comes from advertising revenue. So it’s definitely very easy for Google to produce the cash they need to purchase just about any company they want that is willing to forgo their independence and creative freedom. One of the more well-known acquisitions is the purchase of video-sharing website, YouTube, for over a billion dollars back in 2006 by Google. Some argue that since then, YouTube has become way more interested in making advertisers happy than cultivating the social community atmosphere that was there before Google came along to spoil it.

In the summer of 2010, Google bought another startup tech company called Slide for over $200 million. The company launched back in 2005 and was founded by a man named  Max Levchin, who also co-founded PayPal. The company produced several social applications, including one game called SuperPoke! Pets.

Google is desperate to follow the footsteps of Facebook who has been incredibly successful in social gaming. Facebook has a very important mutually dependent relationship with a company called  Zynga, which produces social gaming exclusively for Facebook. People spend hours playing games on Facebook and it’s a great way to keep people on the website. Zynga earns 93% of its revenue from the games it produces for Facebook. Facebook relies on Zynga for 12% of its revenue, based on the paperwork the company submitted to file its IPO at the start of this month. The 12% is actually quite significant and some think that it’s actually a low figure which does not include all the ads that are generated by Zynga games.

Google wants to have something like this too and has been trying to make to social gaming a big success on its social networking website called Google Plus. However, Google isn’t really having much luck and has wasted its $200 million investment by purchasing Slide. A year after Google bought the company it closed down all but one Slide product. What a waste of cash – but who cares, Google is loaded.

Anyhow, of all the products Google closed down there is one which Google should have never touched. Google’s destruction of SuperPoke! Pets is not to be forgotten any time soon because people who have spent valuable time, energy, and money on the game will not let Google get away with murder.

SuperPoke! Pets allows users to adopt, name, and care for a virtual pet. They get the opportunity to not only care for their virtual pet but they can also interact with other pet owners in the online game community. The game allows people to customize the environment of their pet, dress them up in fancy outfits, and even purchase “gold”. A whole virtual currency system developed and some people took advantage of all it could offer.

So when Google made the announcement last August that it will be closing the game down permanently in the near future, people were infuriated at Google. Users couldn’t comprehend the rationale behind closing down a popular game. There are some people who spent thousands of dollars on the game buying items and “gold”, which has now all gone to waste. They can probably eventually recoup their lost money, but something fervent gamers can never get back is the time and emotional investment they put into their pets. The pets might only exist virtually, but some argue that they still make the same connection and bonding as you would with a real pet animal.

When the announcement was made to axe the game for good, some threatened to take legal action against Google and the media waited to see if they would follow through with that threat. They did.  A group of game users were shopping around for a law firm to represent them and they finally got some help. The case was transferred to federal court in San Jose late last month.

The case is Christalee Abreu V Slide Inc. and Google Inc and this will be watched by many who feel that this could have ramifications for how online currencies work and the whole online gaming industry. The lead plaintiff, Christalee Abreu, says she spent more than a thousand dollars on “gold”. The class action represents thousands of people who also say they spent money and others who say they had VIP subscriptions – they are seeking millions of dollars from Google.

Even if they do end up winning the case and monetary compensation – there will still always be that emotional loss. The social aspects of the game and the valued community will be forever gone. What’s really sad is that this game, according to Dr. John Grohol of Psych Central, appealed to adults, children and handicapped users (who only have a few games limited to them for their use).

We’ll see how things develop with the legal case. Google plans on shutting down the game March 6th, 2012. Good luck to the gamers!

Dr. John Grohol’s article can be read by clicking here

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Google Is Sued Over Privacy Violations And Breaking Terms Of Settlement

 A privacy advocacy group has filed a lawsuit against Google to stop them from harvesting personal information of people who use their services. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed the complaint against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for not doing enough to protect users from privacy violations and for not fulfilling the requirements of a previous settlement against Google.

If you do not already know, let me fill you in: Two year ago, February 2010, Google launched a social networking tool called Google Buzz. This was the first desperate attempt by Google to try to get their foot in the door of social networking (before they launched their other big mistake called Google Plus). When Google introduced the tool into Gmail, its free online email service, it was completely mandatory. It did not allow for any sort of opt-in process and many people were kept in the dark about what exactly was happening to their personal email information.

Regardless of whether users wanted the Buzz tool or not, it was implemented anyhow. Once the Buzz tool was activated, it immediately gathered together a list of “followers” (kinda like Facebook friends). The “followers” of an individual were determined by a Google algorithm, which chose people to populate the Buzz list with persons who you most frequently interacted with in email exchanges. Google failed to inform people that their email contact list would be used in this way.

Once their “followers” and “following” lists were compiled, Google made those lists available to the general public. Google did not explicitly inform people that their information would be freely available on the web. This was a deep invasion of privacy and break of trust by Google. The contact list of users is incredibly sensitive and the world should not have to see who you are conversing with if you do not want that information out.

Many people said that this Google Buzz tool exposed people to danger. There are some American government officials who’ve used Gmail and their information was jeopardized. Google also made vulnerable human rights activists from repressive countries because all their contacts were exposed. CNET writer Molly Wood had this to say about Google Buzz:

“But I do have an expectation of privacy when it comes to my e-mail, and I think that even in this age of social-networking TMI, most people still think of e-mail as a safe place for speaking privately with friends and family. And for Google to come along and broadcast that network to the world without asking first—and force you to turn it off after the fact—is, I think, both shocking and unacceptable.”

The repurposing of data Google has of you is not only deceptive but dangerous too. Soon after this launch of the Google Buzz tool, there was intense backlash against it and media scrutiny came from all places. This eventually resulted in EPIC filing a complaint with the FTC and a full investigation of Google soon after commenced. Just last fall, the Commission reached a settlement with Google, as a result, the company agreed to a consent order that prohibits Google from misrepresenting its privacy practices. In addition, Google agreed to file regular reports with the Commission. Google is now required to gain consent from users before Google can disclose private data, to comply with a strict privacy program, and is subject to a 20 year audit. Lastly, Google agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle privacy violation lawsuits.

Now, EPIC has filed another complaint against Google because of Google’s plans to consolidate all the information it has of users from all its services and for changing its privacy policies, which takes full effect starting next month. EPIC has a problem with Google changing its privacy policies and business practice just after they agreed to a consent order with the FTC this past October 2011. The advocacy group contends that this is a blatant violation of the settlement and is asking the FTC to investigate Google again.

EPIC’s lawyers said that Google is exposing its users to “grave risk” and that the FTC is required to enforce the consent order but have so far failed to so do. They went on to say,

“At a minimum, a comprehensive privacy program required by the consent order, which arose from the company’s attempt to combine user data from two discrete services, cannot permit the company to now engage in the same prohibited practice…Google ads are targeted to individual users based on information Google gathers about individual users…will make it possible for advertisers to gain access to personal information which was previously unavailable to them”

The complaint was launched yesterday, Wednesday, February 8th, 2012. The FTC has acknowledged the filing by EPIC but declined to comment specifically. They did have this to say though,

“The FTC takes compliance with our consent orders very seriously and always looks carefully at any evidence that they are being violated,” says spokeswoman Cecelia Prewett.

The FTC has the authority to levy fines of as much as $16,000 a day for each violation of consent orders. The case is Electronic Privacy Information Center v. Federal Trade Commission, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). I will definitely continue to keep an eye on this one – you should too.

To read the complaint EPIC filed against Google regarding Google Buzz, click here   (PDF file)

To read the complaint EPIC filed yesterday, click here (PDF file)

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