Two consumer advocacy groups claim that Google has violated user privacy with its recent policy change and have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have filed a complaint with the FTC, claiming that Google changed its privacy policy back in June in order to obtain more data on its users. While these consumer groups have called it “highly deceptive,” the search giant says the changes were made following global testing, thereby letting at least some users know beforehand.

The question essentially boils down to whether the search giant made it clear what the changes are and their implications. According to the consumer advocates, Google’s lack of explanation may have caused users to accept the company’s policy changes without any proper understanding of its consequences. John Simpson, privacy project director for Consumer Watchdog heavily criticized Google, demanding that an action be taken against the company:

Google indeed has been a serial privacy violator. Something needs to be done that gets their attention.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that Google’s been involved in privacy-related controversy. Back in 2011, Google’s inappropriate data-collecting for its social network resulted in a consent decree with the FTC, in which the company was compelled into 20 years of audits and was required to display privacy policy changes in a transparent manner.

Consumer Watchdog and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse contend that the way Google handled its privacy policy change in June violated this decree and should be made to hand over the advertising revenue it collected since June. Given the fact that Google was fined $22.5 million by the FTC in 2012 – a record amount for the organization – the most recent complaint may be serious news for the search giant.

Google is omnipresent; quite literally, billions of users use its services. However, manipulating its consumers and collecting private data for money are not acceptable, and Google needs to execute privacy-related changes in a clear and transparent manner so that it’s never again embroiled in this kind of controversy.

Google needs to execute privacy-related changes in a clear and transparent manner so that it’s never again embroiled in this kind of controversy.

Are you concerned about privacy? What measures do you take to protect your data? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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