Google’s new privacy policies, which allow the company to combine user data across all its various products (Google, Gmail, YouTube, Google+), have only been in effect for a few weeks, but they have already resulted in at least four class-action suits from consumers.
From one complaint, filed in a federal court in Philadelphia, which alleges violations of the Federal Wiretap Act, the Stored Electronic Communications Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act:
Google’s increased optimization comes at a significant cost to privacy; consumers’ rights; and consumers’ wallets,… What a consumer may discuss with friends on Gmail, may be different than that which he or she would search on a computer at work.
By commingling data (including searches, locations, and email contacts), and tying it to a specific Gmail account or Google+ account (and therefore a specific consumer), the consumer’s personal information is no longer tied to the account; it is tied to an overarching profile in that person’s name, that is regularly appended through use of or interaction with Google products. That person no longer remains anonymous where he or she intended to remain anonymous. The various portions of each person’s life are no longer separate and given the expectation of privacy associated with each of them; they are no longer pieces to an impossible puzzle; they are pieces that can be, and as of March 1, 2012 have been, linked to create a clear picture of that consumer…
Google has misrepresented that the impetus for the consolidation, stating that it is to provide ‘a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.’ However, the primary reason for Google’s privacy change is to use consumers’ personal information to grow profits by achieving a larger market share of advertising revenue. Thus, Google has no incentive to provide an effective opt-out function, or, in the alternative to provide an opt-in function.
In addition to the Philadelphia case, CourthouseNews.com reports that lawsuits involving the Google privacy update have been filed in federal courts in Newark, NJ, Manhattan, and San Jose, CA.
Meanwhile, ABC News reports that a court in Japan has ordered Google to suspend its autocomplete function on its search engine after a Japanese man claimed that the words that come up when you begin typing in his name have made it impossible to find a job.
Google has not suspended the service and says it is not violating anyone’s privacy with autocomplete.
Classes Across Country Worry That Google Is Turning Evil [CourthouseNews.com]