Another chapter in the FTC's ridiculous fundraising campaign

Another chapter in the FTC's ridiculous fundraising campaign

Summary: Consumers need to understand that, if they want to use lots and lots of free information services on the internet, they have to pay for it by being targets of advertising.

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TOPICS: Google, Apple
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Google is paying $22 million in fines for violating the privacy of Mac users. Apple Insider does a nice job laying out the specifics, with a diagram. In short:

"Google's cookie strategy would exploit a loophole in Safari, allowing an advertiser to place a cookie if the user interacted with an ad. Some ads placed by DoubleClick, which Google owns, would automatically send an invisible form to make it appear the user was interacting with an advertisement, which prompted Safari to allow DoubleClick to install a temporary cookie on the user's computer." 

The fine is the largest in FTC history and approximately what Google spends on soda for its employee cafeterias.

It's also completely nuts.

Consumers need to understand that, if they want to use lots and lots of free information services on the internet, they have to pay for it by being targets of advertising. This shouldn't bother anyone, and I for one prefer when ads are targeted. I'm happy to provide information about my web usage in exchange for free Gmail and ads I'm more likely to care about. Not that I use Safari. Even on my Mac, I use Google Chrome because it's better.

Topics: Google, Apple

Steven Shaw

About Steven Shaw

Steven Shaw used to be a litigation attorney at Cravath, Swaine &gMoore, a New York law firm, and is now the online community managergfor eGullet.org and the Director of New Media Studies at thegInternational Culinary Center.

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6 comments
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  • Seriously...?

    You are defending Google?

    Amazing...
    Qbt
    • I think this sums it up

      "Steven Shaw used to be a litigation attorney...."

      Sorry Mr. Shaw, but IMO tricking a browser to install anything without the user's consent "should" be illegal. Let alone tricking the browser into thinking that the user had done something he/she clearly had not.
      Badgered
      • I agree

        There are already laws that allow you to sign up for a list to avoid being called by telemarketers, and they can be fined for violating the list. I think Google essentially skated on this.
        Third of Five
  • Really?

    " Consumers need to understand that, if they want to use lots and lots of free information services on the internet, they have to pay for it by being targets of advertising."

    That's not the issue here. The issue is that Safari users explicitly stated a preference not to be tracked, and Google circumvented that. How would you feel if you expressly requested that someone leave you alone, only to have that person get into your building through a side entrance or by going through when someone else opens the door? I doubt you'd like that too much.
    Third of Five
  • Can always do it on the server side

    Websites don't have to run scripts on my browser, thus slowing it down and motivating me to block them. Likewise radio and television have gone without the ability to track individual viewers for generations, yet advertisers still find it worth their while to advertise on those media.

    The current web advertising paradigm is attractive to advertisers because it offloads CPU cycles from servers (owned by the sites carrying the ads), to clients (owned by end users). This is not because it's the only way it can be done, but because it's cheaper for the advertiser, though end users pay for it in lost efficiency.
    John L. Ries
  • More to the point...

    The big picture here is that Google essentially exploited a loophole to install software on someone's machine. How is that not worthy of attention from authorities? Or is Mr. Shaw simply a contrarian blowhard? From some of his earlier writings, that seems to be the case.
    Third of Five