FTC Responds To EPIC Google Privacy Suit

    February 20, 2012

Two weeks ago we brought you news that the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy watchdog, had filed suit against the Federal Trade Commission to compel the agency to block the planned rollout of Google’s new unified privacy policy, scheduled to go into effect March 1. Google responded quickly to the suit, saying that “EPIC is wrong on the facts and the law.”

The court gave the FTC until February 17th to respond, a deadline which the agency just met. The FTC filed two separate documents: a memorandum of opposition (PDF) to the suit, and a motion to dismiss it (PDF). In the memorandum, the FTC asserts that the lawsuit “seeks to deprive the Commission fo the discression to exercise its enforcement authority,” that it “flouts controlling precedent that universally rejects such efforts,” and that as such “[t]his lawsuit is completely baseless.” The FTC also asserts that EPIC has no legal grounds for its attempt to compel the agency to enforce anything, as both law and judicial precedent leave all enforcement solely in the hands of the FTC.

It is worth noting that the FTC’s argument against EPIC does not discuss Google’s privacy policy at all. In responding to the suit, the FTC is not making any statements whatsoever about whether the privacy policy violates the 2011 consent order that EPIC claims it does. That leaves open the possibility that the FTC may yet pursue action against Google on that front. The day after EPIC filed suit, however, a document surfaced showing that Google had submitted a report to the FTC detailing the new privacy policy’s compliance with the consent order, which dealt with user privacy and was issued concerning Google Buzz.

According to the court order that expedited the suit, EPIC has until the 21st to issue its own reply to the FTC’s filings.

What do you think? Should EPIC really mind its own business here? Sound off in the comments.