Press Release

Consumer Watchdog Asks FTC To Probe Google’s Deceptive Trade Practices In Marketing Google Apps for Government; Buzz Agreement Maybe Violated

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Thu, May 5, 2011 at 10:38 am

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Consumer Watchdog Asks FTC To Probe Google’s Deceptive Trade Practices In Marketing Google Apps for Government; Buzz Agreement Maybe Violated

SANTA MONICA, CA — Consumer Watchdog  today said Google used deceptive and unfair trade practices in marketing its “cloud computing” services to government entities and asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz, the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group said the Internet giant’s practices may violate the recent consent agreement in the “Buzz” case.

“We urge you to impose the strongest sanctions possible on Google in light of this latest misrepresentation,” wrote Jamie Court, Consumer Watchdog president, and John M. Simpson, director of the group’s Privacy Project. ” If you do not, Google will have the impression that it may flout the terms of the Buzz agreement before the ink is barely dry.”

Click here to read Consumer Watchdog’s letter.

Consumer Watchdog said the company has been marketing its Google Apps for Government service with a Website claiming “Secure applications to meet the needs of Government/ Google Apps for Government, now with FISMA certification.”

Click here to view screenshot of the Web page taken on May 5, 2011.

But despite Google’s claims that Google Apps for Government has been given Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) certification, it has yet to receive it. In a sworn deposition David L. McClure, Associate Administrator for the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies of the GSA, stated:

“It is my understanding that the process is ongoing and that no final determination has been made by GSA regarding FISMA certification for Google Apps for Government.”

Click here to read the deposition.

“In its marketing material Google clearly claims to have important security certification it does not possess.  While Google may ultimately win FISMA certification, it has not received it yet,” wrote Court and Simpson. “A company may be optimistic about the ultimate approval of a product, but claiming to have certification when the process has not been completed is unfair and deceptive.”

The letter also noted that the Buzz consent agreement requires Google “in or affecting commerce, shall not misrepresent in any manner, expressly or by implication… the extent to which respondent is a member of, adheres to, complies with, is certified by, endorsed by, or otherwise participates in any privacy, security or any other compliance program sponsored by the government or any other entity…”

Click here to read the FTC consent agreement.

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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 http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org. Visit our new Google Privacy and Accountability Project website: http://InsideGoogle.com

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This post was written by:

Jamie Court

- who has written 26 posts on Inside Google.

Jamie Court is the author of The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell and the President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

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