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FTC Should Pursue Case Against Google

The Stanford privacy researcher who first uncovered Google evading the default privacy settings for all users of Apple’s Safari web browser believes that the Federal Trade Commission has a “slam dunk” case that Google violated its privacy agreement with the government.

Electric Eye
Google’s Electric Eye sees all

Google really has lost whatever ethics it may have once had1 and should really have to pay a price for their latest lapse. Especially since Google and the Federal Trade Commission had an arrangement already, and Google violated it within weeks…

The Stanford privacy researcher who first uncovered Google evading the default privacy settings for all users of Apple’s Safari web browser believes that the Federal Trade Commission has a “slam dunk” case that Google violated its privacy agreement with the government.

“The facts in this case are unusually clear cut,” Jonathan Mayer, a grad student in computer science and law and a researcher at the Stanford Law Center for Internet and Society, in a phone interview with TPM.

…Aside from further tarnishing Google’s image in the press and public at a crucial time (the search giant was at the time getting ready to roll out a controversial new privacy policy), the news led many writers, including TPM, to speculate that Google could be found in violation of a privacy settlement it agreed to with the Federal Trade Commission.

The settlement, first struck in October 2011 , was the result of the FTC’s year-long privacy investigation into Google over its failed Google Buzz social network. The FTC concluded that Google had indeed misled users and violated their privacy and subjected Google to 20 years worth of privacy audits and ordered that Google no longer “misrepresent” its privacy settings to users. If Google violates any of the terms of the settlement, the FTC can slap the company with a $16,000 civil fine for every day that the company violated any of the terms.

On Thursday night, The Journal reported that the FTC “is examining whether Google’s actions violated last year’s legal settlement,” and another regulatory body in France (the CNIL) and several states attorneys general were also investigating Google over the practice and could levy fines of their own.

 

(click here to continue reading FTC Has ‘Slam Dunk’ Case Against Google, Privacy Researcher Says | TPM Idea Lab.)

Or Pay The Price
Or Pay The Price

and from the WSJ:

In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission is examining whether Google’s actions violated last year’s legal settlement with the government in which Google pledged not to “misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The fine for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation, per day. Because millions of people were affected, any fine could add up quickly, depending on how it is calculated. The FTC declined to comment.

A group of state attorneys general, including New York’s Eric Schneiderman and Connecticut’s George Jepsen, are also investigating Google’s circumvention of Safari’s privacy settings, according to people familiar with the investigation. State attorneys general can have the ability to levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation.

In Europe, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, has added the Safari circumvention technique to its existing pan-European investigation into Google’s privacy-policy changes, according to a person close to the investigation. The CNIL is the agency that levied a €100,000 ($130,960) fine on Google last year for collecting passwords and other personal information when Google vehicles were gathering information for its Street View map service.

(click here to continue reading Google Faces New Privacy Probes – WSJ.com.)

Google power and deep pockets shouldn’t be enough to evade the law, the FTC should make an example of Google, and really bring the hammer down.

Footnotes:
  1. perhaps it never had ethics and was just better at covering up its questionable decisions. No matter []

4 replies on “FTC Should Pursue Case Against Google”

Years ago now, I lost my appreciation for Google’s selfish, profit driven reach across the Internet. When I discovered for myself what they had done with the Google Ads nonsense, I was incensed and fate led me away from Google, to Bing. Bing is fun, and current, and hasn’t (yet!) polluted the Internet with poorly written, mealy mouthed articles designed solely to get folks to click through Google Ads so the owners of said articles can be paid their per-click pittance. (But if and when the day should arrive that Bing does become offensive to the Internet, I’m out of there.)

I mean, honestly! Remember the days when one could rely on a degree of accuracy, or even relevance when reading an informative article online? ….Because of Google’s past (and present) lack of scruples, nowadays we can’t even rely on decent spelling. (It’s sometimes funny to see articles that were nonsensical to begin with, translated poorly into English – just so someone overseas can profit by the Google Ads click-throughs their nonsensical article generates. Then again, sometimes it’s not funny at all. Find a hot topic, and write an article about it, only to generate cash payments via the Google Ads services installed on the page. It’s unscrupulous.)

I’ve long been a fan of anyone other than Google. Corporate profit will drive every business into the dark and murky waters of a selfish morality – if selfishness was their foundation from the start. Like booze, or pills — they don’t make a person rotten at their core, they just lower inhibitions that reveal a core that was rotten to begin with. And Google definitely needs to hop on the wagon!

Dear Seth,

Okay first of all, wow! I feel like I’m talking with a celebrity. Secondly, I feel compelled to call you Mr. Anderson rather than Seth, as I don’t know you and I’m certain you’re a whole lot smarter than I am on all these worldly topics.

Please accept my humility as genuinely felt in the moment. Mr. Anderson (and I love the ‘solipsistic’ Matrix reference that’s happening in my own mind right now), I would never yank your chain. (Yet, how I wish in this moment that my last name were Smith!) (Smiley face emoticon.)

These things said, …Seth, I’m a huge hypocrite. Oh, how I try to not be that. But alas, yep. By all means, hold on to one’s gmail account – even as I hold on to my own Yahoo! account and agree with you that it’s useful. (Spam into my personal account feels like a violation great enough to protect myself from, by having a junk drawer or catchall account for such stuff at Yahoo! …I suppose that needs no further explanation.)

Google recently hosted Cirque Du Soleil at Google’s complex, and I’m an avid fan of Cirque. Needless to say, I watched the live performance on the Internet and was giddy at the opportunity. Afterward, I even watched Google employees avail themselves to their situation and ask of the Cirque administration that was on site, all manner of pressing questions, be they artistic in nature or pragmatic. Ahhh… heavy sigh. It was a wonderful gift to me, and I was grateful to Google for being such a megacorp entity that it could entice Cirque to show up and deliver that unique an experience to its employees, and all presumably on their Google lunch hour. Also, I was grateful to Google for airing the experience live so that plebes such as myself could watch alongside the privileged audience.

Additionally, I notice that Google has a breathtakingly large and manicured complex in which to house its myriad employees. Heck, I’d be happy to be a groundskeeper or parking attendant at a place as beautiful as that! And then there’s the electric and hybrid car experiment conducted on site, which cars are also powered by solar panels (also on site). Discounting the great expense (i.e., profit evident in funding a project such as RechargeIt.org) used by Google to finance such a driving experiment, one has to admire Google’s ability to get its foot into any door it chooses. Imagine a corporation like that simultaneously bickering over proprietary patent concerns (as a most recent email of yours suggests), while also contributing electric and hybrid usage data to the American car industry and ultimately to any government agency that might draw upon it in the future. (And in this, I’m thinking of California’s governator and his admirably visionary and green goals.) Google’s bureaucratic squabbling seems so defensive and petty albeit a driving and supportive force behind judicial lawmaking and corporate “growth,” while its green outreach project registers more on a scale akin to that of Sir Richard Branson’s space travel; as it is most certainly destined to expand the bounds of human consciousness, one way or another.

Awesome and admirable ventures can come also I suppose, from the dark and murky potentially shark infested waters to which I alluded in my last post at your site. For even a fearsome predator, can be viewed as a thing of beauty in its niche. And for that predisposition to seeing beauty even in a thing of horror, I propose I may be a hypocrite.

I wrote what I feel is and was true in my personal experience. Yes, I feel that Google dynamically and permanently altered the purpose of the Internet. Each page that one hits in one’s search can seem about 90% commercial enterprise (complete with advertising dollars to support its existence, perhaps), and ten percent textual information. Clearly, those are made up numbers I pulled from my own head.

Or, are they? Anyway, it was nice to hear from you that you agree with my points I put forth in an earlier post. But I am a humble hypocrite, as well. I have a free email account from one of the conglomerate entities that owns the Internet, and I am aware of myself as seeming like a molecule in comparison to the planet they represent by a worldlier perception. One could boast perhaps and suggest a comment like, even a thing so grand as a planet is comprised of its constituent molecules. But it is with humility that I acquiesce in suggesting equally, ‘Yeah, but the planet could get along just fine without one more molecule, while the molecule’s lone survival without the planet remains improbable.’

If you’ll allow me to end this lengthy reply, I’d like to suggest the following. No matter my perception of the origins of its existence, I acknowledge Google as a global force to be reckoned with. Additionally, I have to maintain some personal level of trust that focusing on the potential good such an entity can do – can and may entitle one to exonerate the bad. We live, we err, we forgive the errs of others and in this way, we improve the future by forgiving the past. It is in my opinion, the paramount achievement of humanity. Not technology, or not intelligence, but creation fueled by forgiveness of worse things that came before. I think in this, humanity is at its best.

Seth, I believe I may be pathologically inclined to focus on the positive in life, even while complaining about the obvious negative. Either that, or I’m really good at fooling myself.

Be well, and spread your good self around as best you can. … I look forward to receiving your continued posts.

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