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Google's Privacy Policy Change Is Almost Here. Will Users Revolt?

March 1 is almost here and so far, nothing, not a court filing, not an appeal of that court filing, not the combined wrath of 36 state attorneys generals has gotten Google to change its mind about its privacy policy. More than likely, nothing will. Under the change, which Google first announced about six weeks ago, information about any user signed into any Google account will be combined in a single database. So when someone who downloads a particular app onto her Android phone may be shown ads in her Gmail account related to that app. Ditto any videos she might have viewed on YouTube.

Over the past six weeks, critics of the policy change have amassed a number of arguments. Google, they say, cannot make this change because it violates a 2011 consent agreement between Google and the Federal Trade Commission regarding privacy. More recently, it has been suggested that Google’s new privacy policy violates EU rules, according to ABC News.

Congress and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, are urging the FTC–in the case of the EPIC trying to sue–to get it to take action to block the change. While the FTC has decried Google's policy—calling it a brutal choice for consumers—the agency has not indicated it will not take definitive action against Google.  A federal judge dismissed EPIC's suit, which the group is now appealing the ruling.

More recently 36 state attorneys general have written to Google protesting the change and dismissing its key argument—namely that users can opt out by canceling their accounts. "It rings hollow to call their ability to exit the Google products ecosystem a “choice” in an Internet economy where the clear majority of all Internet users use – and frequently rely on – at least one Google product on a regular basis," the letter said.

The Power of User Revolt

One potent force, however—consumer revolt—has yet to weigh in. If consumers leave Google in droves over the policy, it may cause the search engine to revamp its approach. The question of whether they will is still open. One survey taken of residents in the UK shows that only one in ten users of Google services have read the new privacy policy, and half users don't realize how sweeping the changes will be, according to research from Big Brother. Watch and YouGov. (via PC Pro).

It is safe to guess when the changes do sink in, many consumers will not be pleased.

9 in 10 Americans Concerned About Online Privacy

Consumer concern for online privacy is at a significantly high level, according to the Q1 2012 TRUSTe Privacy Index, which shows that 90% of US adults worry about their privacy online. Although a plurality (46%) of survey respondents indicate the frequency of their online privacy worries to be just occasional, 23% say they always worry about their privacy online, with a further 21% saying they frequently worry. Southerners, 45-54-year-olds, and divorcees are those most likely to frequently or always worry about their privacy.

In addition, 41% of adults do not trust businesses with their personal information, while half only somewhat agree with the statement that they trust most companies with their personal information online.


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