You can find plenty of people willing to call Google’s new rejiggered Search Plus stupid. No shortage of people to call it frustrating, misguided, or irritating. Heck, there are even plenty of people over at Bing ready to call it a wonderful gift since it may drive users over to Bing out of frustration. But EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is adding a new word to the mix: illegal. EPIC wants the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google arguing that the new search is a violation of the conditions under which Google operates. Those conditions stem from a settlement between Google and the FTC over Google Buzz, the failed social platform that opted a lot of users in without their consent.
The FTC and Google announced a settlement in March that requires Google to establish a comprehensive privacy program, to undergo independent audits of its privacy practices for 20 years, and to make new features opt-in if they provide additional sharing of certain types of private information.
But now EPIC believes that adding Google+ into search results the way it has is a violation of that agreement.
"We don't think people would reasonably expect that as a user of Google+ you would expect people to find that information through Google Search," Rotenberg said, adding that such integration should be opt in.
"You are opted in and have to choose to opt out and that seems to us to be contrary to the consent order that the FTC established," he said. "There's a strong parallel with Buzz -- opt in Gmail users to launch a social network service. Now they're using search to promote Google+."