FTC, Google Settlement: Consumer Watchdog Files Motion in U.S. District Court Opposing Agreement

Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization is up in arms over a recent settlement between Google and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over the search giant’s privacy practices. The organization has filed a motion in U.S. District Court asking for allowance to oppose the settlement because it has been deemed too lenient a punishment for Google’s actions.

    The settlement, which came to fruition in July, fines Google $22.5 million for violating a prior agreement with the FTC in which the company promised not to misrepresent its privacy policy to Internet users. It violated that oath by using computer code to enable Apple’s Safari Web browser to monitor users activity by tracking them using cookies, while at the same time assuring these Apple device users that this activity was not occurring.

    “The Commission is proposing to let Google buy its way out of trouble for an amount that is less than the company spends on lunches for its employees and with no admission it did anything wrong,” John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director said in a statement. “Corporations need to be held accountable when

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    they willfully violate a consent agreement.”

    Consumer Watchdog does not hold the only opposing view of the FTC settlement. Although the settlement agreement passed 4-1, the lone hold out Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch argued that the settlement essentially allows Google to deny being at fault for compromising its privacy policy.

    “Commissioner Rosch argued…that the proposed stipulated order…is not in the public interest because the proposed order itself acknowledges that Google continues to deny any violation of the prior FTC order, deny liability for the claims set forth…and deny the material allegations of the complaint except for those regarding jurisdiction and revenue,” Consumer Watchdog’s legal brief stated.

    The brief went on to reveal that Rosch argued that allowing Google to deny liability is not justifiable by the proposed $22.5 million penalty because this fine is financially insignificant to the company, whose 2011 revenues totaled $37.8 billion, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

    “Google hacked past a key privacy setting on iPhones and iPads and other devices using Apple’s Safari browser, placed tracking cookies on them and then lied saying the settings were still effective,” Simpson said in a statement. “Clearly it violated its agreement with the FTC.”

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