Federal judge dismisses challenge to Google privacy changes

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] dismissed [opinion, PDF] a suit on Friday from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website], a consumer privacy group, asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] to block Google's [corporate website] proposed privacy policy changes [text]. EPIC brought suit against the FTC earlier this month [JURIST report]. The new policy allows a user's information to be shared among different Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps. EPIC alleged that the changes to the privacy policy were in violation [EPIC materials] of a consent order [JURIST report] between the FTC and Google in October over a breach of consumer privacy rights and misleading consumers during the launch of Google Buzz, a social networking service. US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson stated that the decision to not block the privacy policy changes was within the FTC's discretion and thus not judicially reviewable:

[T]he FTC's decision whether to take action with respect to a potential violation of the Consent Order is a quintessential enforcement decision that is committed to the agency's discretion and is not subject to judicial review. ... The FTC is in the best position to evaluate whether Google's new policies will in fact violate the Consent Order, and if so, what course of action the agency should pursue.
Because the court ruled that the FTC's decision was not subject to judicial review, it never reached the issue of the merits of EPIC's case against the FTC. The changes to the privacy policy are set to take effect March 1.

Google's new privacy policy has faced heavy criticism from advocates concerned with consumer privacy. On Thursday the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) [official website] sent a letter [JURIST report] to Google, signed by 36 state attorneys general, expressing concerns about the company's new privacy policy. Last week, three US representatives sent a letter [text, PDF] to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] asking it to look into [JURIST report] Google's new privacy policy. Last month, Google issued a letter [JURIST report] in response to concerns raised by members of Congress regarding consumer privacy rights as impacted by the new policy. In January, US Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) [official website] and seven other lawmakers sent a letter [text, PDF] to Google CEO Larry Page containing 11 questions regarding consumer privacy rights [JURIST report] as affected by Google's new privacy policies.

 

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