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Consumer Watchdog Wins Right To Oppose $22.5 Million Google Settlement With FTC

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Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 10:58 am

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Consumer Watchdog Wins Right To Oppose $22.5 Million Google Settlement With FTC

SAN FRANCISCO – A U.S. District Court Judge has granted Consumer Watchdog the right to oppose Google’s record $22.5 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission because it allows the Internet giant to deny any wrongdoing.

“Google executives want to buy their way out of trouble with what for them is pocket change and then deny doing anything wrong,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “Allowing this settlement undercuts the entire regulatory process. Companies and their executives must be held accountable when they violate legal agreements.”

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston gave attorneys for the nonpartisan, nonprofit public interest group until Sept. 21 to file an amicus, or friend of the court, brief opposing the settlement. In her order filed late Tuesday she said Google and the FTC would then have a week to respond. The judge said she would hold a hearing on Consumer Watchdog’s request after receiving all the legal papers if she decides it is necessary.

Read Judge Illston’s order here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/illstonorder082812.pdf

Attorneys Gary Reback and Robert J. Yorio, of the law firm Carr & Ferrell, filed the motion seeking amicus status to oppose the settlement in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group.

Read Consumer Watchdog’s motion seeking amicus status here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ftcgooglemotion082112.pdf

Consumer Watchdog said Wednesday that the proposed settlement is inadequate because it allows Google to deny that it violated an earlier privacy consent agreement. The FTC has charged that Google violated the “Buzz Consent Agreement” when Google claimed it was honoring privacy settings on iPads, iPhones and other devices using the Safari browser but in fact it was circumventing them.

“How can a settlement be in the public interest, when the guilty party gets to deny they did anything wrong?” asked Simpson.

Consumer Watchdog had filed a complaint in February about Google violating the “Buzz Consent Agreement” with the FTC after it was revealed how Google was circumventing privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser.

“Google hacked past a key privacy setting on iPhones and iPads and other devices using Apple’s Safari browser,

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placed tracking cookies on them and then lied, saying the settings were still effective,” said Simpson. “Clearly it violated its agreement with the Commission. The FTC must hold Google executives accountable for their unlawful actions and not let them make a mockery of the agency.”

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Visit Consumer Watchdog’s website at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org — Carr & Ferrell’s website is: http://www.carrferrell.com

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This post was written by:

John M. Simpson

- who has written 361 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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