FTC chief: Google forcing consumers to make 'brutal choice' with privacy changes


Leibowitz made the comments on Sunday's episode of C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program.

The privacy changes will allow Google to share user information across its various services. For example, users could begin seeing ads in Gmail based on the videos they have watched on YouTube.

Google says the changes will make its privacy policy simpler and easier to understand. The company also says the changes will allow it to better tailor its services to each user.

"We’ve undertaken the most extensive notification effort in Google’s history, and we’re continuing to offer choice and control over how people use our services," a Google spokesman said. "The privacy policy change mainly affects users with a Google Account, and you can continue to use many of our services—including Search, Maps and YouTube—when you are logged out."

Privacy advocates and some lawmakers have questioned whether Google will offer users a meaningful way to opt out of the privacy changes other than quitting Google services entirely.

The Google spokesman explained that signed-in users can still turn use privacy controls such as turning off their search and YouTube histories, controlling tailored ads or going into a private mode on Chrome.

Google and the FTC agreed to a privacy settlement last year after Google began automatically opting users into its now-defunct social network, Google Buzz. The settlement imposes a set of privacy requirements on Google and bars it from misrepresenting its privacy policies in the future.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) argues that Google's privacy changes violate its settlement with the FTC. Earlier this month, the privacy group sued the FTC to try to force the agency to block Google's changes.

The FTC has not taken a position on Google's privacy changes, but the agency argues that it has the discretion over whether it will enforce its own settlements. Last week, a federal judge agreed and dismissed EPIC's suit.

The group has appealed the ruling.

--Updated at 1:18 p.m.