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Google Customers Sue Over Changes to Privacy Policy Rules

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Google Inc. customers sued the company over claims they were deceived by its new privacy rules merging separate policies for about 60 services into one.

The suit seeks to represent in a group, or class action, people who held Google accounts and mobile phones powered by its Android operating system from August 19, 2004, until after March 1, when the new privacy policy went into effect, according to a complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan.

Google says the revised privacy policy will provide a simpler, more streamlined experience for users. A consumer’s YouTube viewing history can be used to tailor results in Google Search while an individual’s search history will enable more relevant ads across Google products, Google spokesman Chris Gaither said before the policy was introduced.

“This change violates Google’s prior privacy policies, which deceived and misled consumers by stating that Google would not utilize information provided by a consumer in connection with his or her use of one service, with any other service, for any reason, without the user’s consent,” the three plaintiffs, represented by law firm of Grant & Eisenhofer PA, said in the filing.

The lawsuit seeks money damages for the alleged deception, as well as for alleged violation of the Computer Fraud Abuse Act and Stored Electronic Communications Act.

Consumer advocacy groups including the Center for Digital Democracy and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, or EPIC, have complained about the new privacy policy, saying it doesn’t give consumers a choice about keeping their data separate. The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter to Google Chief Executive Officer Larry Page Feb. 22 signed by 36 attorneys general criticizing the new policy.

Gaither, the spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google, declined to comment, saying the company hadn’t been served with the lawsuit.

To contact the reporters on this story: Sara Forden in Washington at sforden@bloomberg.net; Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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