Court Puts Google Privacy Case On Fast Track
This week, the D.C. Circuit Court issued a scheduling order that requires the FTC to file a response by no later than Feb. 17.
It makes sense that the court would expedite the case given that Google plans to forge ahead with the rollout on March 1. But whether the judges will agree that Google is violating the Buzz settlement is another question.
Google says it isn't gathering any more data than before or sharing any additional data. On the contrary, the company says the only difference is that it will now aggregate data about signed-in users collected from YouTube, Android, Gmail or other services. Google intends to use that data to compile more detailed profiles, which will be used for ad targeting.
Advertisers will presumably benefit in that they will be able to draw on more information when targeting ads. But the targeting itself is still anonymous.
But EPIC argues that marketers will be able to draw on some of the analytics data it receives when users click on ads -- like which keywords were associated with which users -- in order to make more deductions about them. In other words, even without knowing users' names, advertisers might be able to figure out more information about them.
That might turn out to be true, but at this point the conclusion seems highly speculative.
Regardless, Google's announcement has drawn the ire of many critics -- both on Capitol Hill and in the EU. It's not clear yet how users feel, but it would be understandable if some felt betrayed by the company. After all, many people who used Google's services did so with the belief that the company wasn't planning on aggregating the data. That is, people assumed that what happened in Gmail stayed in Gmail. As of March 1, that will no longer be the case, absent judicial intervention.
Google says that the new policy will enable users to have a better, more personalized experience. That may be the case, but Google still could give figured out how to give users more options for avoiding data aggregation. In fact, if Google really wanted to personalize its service, allowing people to opt out of its new system would be a good start.