Proposed Google Settlement is Inadequate: Consumer Watchdog

By Ed Silverstein September 25, 2012

Consumer Watchdog has criticized the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s proposed $22.5-million fine that Google might pay in connection with privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser.

The consumer advocacy group also complains that the FTC does not have a permanent injunction against Google for violating the earlier “Buzz” consent decree.

“Without an injunction, the FTC has very little leverage to assure Google’s future compliance with the Buzz decree,” Consumer Watchdog said in a brief filed in the case. “The failure to seek an injunction also limits the FTC’s flexibility with regard to civil monetary penalties in the future. Simply put, the absence of a permanent injunction gives Google little reason to take the Buzz decree seriously.”

Consumer Watchdog also complained Google will be allowed to deny any wrongdoing.

In addition, U.S. government attempts to force Google to “respect the privacy of Internet users have largely been ineffective,” according to a statement from Consumer Watchdog.

Google allegedly violated the "Buzz Consent Agreement" when Google circumvented privacy settings on iPads, iPhones and other devices using the Safari browser.

“At issue in this case is whether this Court will lend its imprimatur to a settlement proposal so markedly deficient that it fails to meet the relevant legal standards of ‘adequacy’ and furthering ‘the public interest,” Consumer Watchdog added in the brief.

"Google executives want to buy their way out of trouble with what for them is pocket change and then deny doing anything wrong. The day the proposed settlement was announced the value of Google outstanding stock increased more than the fine,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director. “As our brief makes clear, Google has demonstrated an ability to outmaneuver government regulators repeatedly and ride roughshod over the privacy rights of consumers.  Google continues to be disingenuous about its practices.”

Recent instances that involve Google include: a Wi-Spy scandal in 2010, Google Buzz scandal in 2010, combining personal information in 2012, and the Safari hacking, according to Consumer Watchdog.

Last month, TechZone360 reported that Google was to pay the record $22.5 million in fines because it “misrepresented” to Safari users it would not place tracking cookies or serve them targeted ads.

Google also has to disable all the troublesome tracking cookies, the FTC added.

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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