Electronic Privacy Information Center says the policy update violates of a 2011 privacy agreement between the agency and the company over its launch of Google Buzz.
The privacy group filed a complaint (PDF) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia requesting a preliminary injunction against the new rules, which are set to go into effect on March 1.
EPIC, which once claimed that Google's introduction of Gmail was a "criminal" offense because e-mail messages were scanned, alleges that the forthcoming policy changes are "a clear violation" of a 2011 settlement agreement between the agency and the company over privacy concerns related to the launch of Google Buzz. Soon after the social network launched in February 2010, Google tweaked its privacy setup, acknowledging that it had been difficult to make one's list of followers private.
The privacy backlash led to the settlement agreement that required Google to implement a comprehensive privacy program and allow independent professionals to prepare regular reports on the company's privacy practices for the next 20 years.
"Google's announced changes to business practices will make it possible for advertisers to gain access to personal information which was previously unavailable to them," EPIC said in its filing. So far, the agency has "failed" to block Google from making the changes, "placing the privacy interests of literally hundreds of millions Internet users at grave risk."
Google responded by saying EPIC's lawsuit misinterprets the facts.
One frequent EPIC critic questioned the motivation behind the lawsuit.
"This is literally unprecedented, but it's not surprising coming from EPIC, which has taken a very aggressive anti-Google stand," said Berin Szoka, an attorney who's president of the Washington, D.C., think tank TechFreedom, which has been critical of EPIC's call for more data collection and use regulation. "I think it's safe to say that this is really a rather elaborate publicity stunt on EPIC's part."
Earlier this month, European Union officials asked Google to refrain from implementing its new privacy plan until the implications could be analyzed, but Google declined, saying that "delaying the new policy would cause significant confusion."