Consumer Watchdog Opposes Google’s FTC Accord – Wants A Stiffer Penalty

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GOOGLE'S $22.5m settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over privacy breaches will be challenged if Consumer Watchdog gets its way.

The organisation has filed a motion (PDF) in US District Court and asked for the right to oppose the FTC settlement with Google that it thought was rather cheap.

Consumer Watchdog says that the settlement is inadequate because it lets the search firm deny that it violated a previous privacy consent agreement. We have asked Google to respond, but so far it has not.

"The Commission is proposing to let Google to 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," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. "Corporations need to be held accountable when they willfully violate a consent agreement."

The motion would grant the watchdog permission to submit briefs that oppose the settlement, described here as giving it "friend-of-the-court status". It is also asking for a hearing about the settlement and permission to attend that hearing.

Consumer Watchdog is annoyed because Google's fine by the FTC seems small and seems to gloss over Google's previous privacy breaches during its launch of Buzz, the social networking system that exposed users' personal data and was quickly shut down.

It says that the FTC settlement lets Google "deny violation of the Buzz Consent Agreement" that followed, and adds that the $22.5m is too small an amount to really bother the search giant.

"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," added Simpson. "Clearly it violated its agreement with the FTC."


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