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Google says its new privacy policy complies with FTC settlement

February 10, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • A Google staffer rides a bike at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.
A Google staffer rides a bike at the company's headquarters in Mountain… (Paul Sakuma / Associated…)

Google is rebutting charges that its new privacy policy violates a settlement it struck with federal regulators last year.

The Internet search giant told the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that its policy complies with the settlement, according to a self-assessment report the company handed over in January.

The report, obtained by Politico Friday, says Google has gone to “exceptional lengths” to tell its users what data it harvests and what it does with it.

Google settled charges last year that it violated privacy laws by exposing Gmail users' personal information when rolling out its now-defunct Google Buzz social networking service. The breach prompted an angry backlash from consumers and privacy advocates who say the Mountain View, Calif., company disclosed personal information without their knowledge or consent.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a consumer watchdog group, filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the FTC in a bid to stop Google from rolling out a new privacy policy that it says violates the FTC settlement. A federal judge has agreed to expedite the case.

Last month, Google began alerting users around the globe that beginning March 1 it will share data it collects from users across its dozens of services. Google says that only users who are logged into Google will be affected. Google already shared what it knew about its users across most of its services but now it will also include YouTube and Google search history.

A Google spokesman declined to comment on the self-assessment report.

"The FTC takes compliance with our consent orders very seriously and always looks carefully at any evidence or allegations that they are being violated," FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell said in an emailed statement. "Allegations have been made that Google's recently announced changes to its privacy policies and practices violate a Commission order. All orders are subject to a detailed and vigorous compliance review process, but such investigations are non-public, and we therefore cannot comment further." 

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