By the end of April, the California State Attorney General’s office had already issued more than 3,600 consumer complaints related to Google’s privacy policies and terms and conditions.
Google’s policy was the subject of an investigation by the California Attorney General.
Now the company has been accused of breaching the privacy of hundreds of thousands of Californians.
In a letter sent to Google, the attorney general, Xavier Becerra, described Google’s policies as “dangerously out of step with California law”.
“We are disappointed by Google’s recent actions to circumvent our privacy laws, including its refusal to provide detailed information about the nature of Google’s advertising program,” the letter said.
“This is unacceptable and we call on Google to reverse these actions.”
Google responded with a brief statement from CEO Sundar Pichai, who defended the company’s privacy practices as “safe”.
“Google respects the privacy and security of our users and partners,” the statement said.
It said the company would continue to comply with all applicable laws, “with the exception of California law which prohibits the disclosure of information relating to the operation of an automated system operated by Google”.
“The policies in question do not reflect our general policies and are not the only policies that we enforce.”
Pichieas letter said the attorney’s office was seeking information on the identity of those who had complained about Google’s terms and condition, and about the number of complaints received from California.
Pichias letter also stated that Google had received a “number of complaints” relating to Google ads, but did not disclose how many or if any of those complaints had resulted in any enforcement action.
“We take privacy seriously, and we do not use automated systems that are linked to our servers, and neither do we have a policy that prohibits third parties from using our data to target ads to users,” the company said in a statement.
“While we are unable to provide specific numbers about complaints, we believe that the number is very low, and is very likely much lower than what we’ve been reporting.”
Pidgea said that while Google had made efforts to improve its policies, it was not clear whether it had reached the point of no return.
“There is no reason to believe that Google will not continue to improve our policies,” Picha said.
Pidgeas letter came just days after the California Senate approved a bill that would require Google to provide users with an opt-out on the use of its ads in its search results.
The bill was authored by state Senator Mike McGuire, a Republican from Los Angeles, and passed in the Senate in late January.
The Senate vote came after Google was criticised for a new ad featuring a young girl, which it said was created by its ad technology firm, AdWords, and was designed to “encourage women to get an education”.
The ad, which ran in Google’s search results, features a girl and a man and said: “Google’s new girls-only campaign is designed to encourage women to learn.”
Google had said it had changed the ad after receiving a number of inquiries.
“As we said in our first ad, we’ve never been explicit about what it’s like to be a girl in the world today, and in this case we weren’t.
We’ve also never explicitly said that we use AdWords for this purpose,” Google said in its statement to the Senate.
The company said that it had “never and will never use the names of girls in ads” and that it “does not collect or use any information about children”.
Google also said that, as part of its privacy policies, Google would “provide users with a list of all of their search terms, keywords and adverts that appear in our search results”.
Google had previously said it was changing its policies because of complaints from California consumers and said that the new policy was “designed to protect privacy”.
But Google said that this policy did not allow it to share the exact details of complaints about its search products, including “what we have found in our internal investigation”.
The company also said it would continue “to work with Californians to improve privacy and transparency” and said it supported the “freedom of expression and expression rights of all Californians”.
Google’s ad policies had previously been criticised by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been urging Congress to amend the law.
“It’s hard to understand why the government is seeking to regulate Google’s business operations so tightly, when the technology giant is so transparent about its privacy practices,” said ACLU staff attorney Jonathan Hafetz.