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Consumer Watchdog Praises FTC For Requiring Privacy Audits For Google, But Says Fines And Further Action Required

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Wed, Mar 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

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Consumer Watchdog Praises FTC For Requiring Privacy Audits For Google, But Says Fines And Further Action Required

WASHINGTON, DC — Consumer Watchdog praised the Federal Trade Commission for requiring Google to submit to privacy audits for the next twenty years, but said the Internet giant should also face monetary penalties for its abuses. The nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group also called for government action to curtail Google’s anti-competitive practices.

“We appreciate this landmark privacy decision by the FTC, but Google needs to be punished and feel pain on its bottom line,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project. “Nothing will completely stop Google from invading users’ privacy until it gets hit where it hurts, its bank accounts.”

Consumer Watchdog said the lack of a strong online privacy law hampered the FTC in its action against Google.

“More than anything, this demonstrates the need for strong privacy legislation that includes a requirement for a ‘Do Not Track Me’ mechanism,” said Simpson.

The FTC settlement was prompted by Google’s launch of its social network, “Buzz.”  Meanwhile, a separate class action suit in the case was recently settled for $8 million that is supposed to  fund privacy projects. The problem with the settlement is that Google had veto power over the organizations that receive the money.  Many are groups that already receive money from the Internet giant.  Groups that have been persistent Google critics were rejected. However, many of them are expected to object to the judge.

Consumer Watchdog has been working to protect consumers’ online privacy rights and educate them about the issues through its Inside Google Project. The goal has been to convince Google of the social and economic importance of giving consumers control over their online lives. By persuading Google, the Internet’s leading company, to adopt adequate guarantees, its policies could become the gold standard for privacy for the industry, potentially improving the performance of the entire online sector.

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Consumer Watchdog, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, DC and Santa Monica, Ca.  Consumer Watchdog’s website is www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: http://insidegoogle.com.

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 362 posts on Inside Google.

John M. Simpson is a leading voice on technological privacy and stem cell research issues. His investigations this year of Google’s online privacy practices and book publishing agreements triggered intense media scrutiny and federal interest in the online giant’s business practices. His critique of patents on human embryonic stem cells has been key to expanding the ability of American scientists to conduct stem cell research. He has ensured that California’s taxpayer-funded stem cell research will lead to broadly accessible and affordable medicine and not just government-subsidized profiteering. Prior to joining Consumer Watchdog in 2005, he was executive editor of Tribune Media Services International, a syndication company. Before that, he was deputy editor of USA Today and editor of its international edition. Simpson taught journalism a Dublin City University in Ireland, and consulted for The Irish Times and The Gleaner in Jamaica. He served as president of the World Editors Forum. He holds a B.A. in philosophy from Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton and was a Gannett Fellow at the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies at the University of Hawaii. He has an M.A. in Communication Management from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

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