Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

Summary:The FTC is called on by Congress to investigate claims that Google's Safari tracking code could have broken an agreement the search giant signed last year.

Three members of the House of Representatives have written to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, asking it to investigate Google's practice of circumventing Apple's Safari browser.

Two Republicans and one Democrat --- Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), and Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) --- sent the letter to the FTC.

The letter calls on the regulator to investigate the issue, and reminds it of Google's promise to abide by the agreement it set out with Google last year amidst the Google Buzz privacy controversy.

It was uncovered last week that Google included code that would bypass the security of the Safari browser, which is used mostly on iOS devices such as the iPhone and the iPad, by allowing a site to set cookies. The aim of the code was to allow users who see adverts, provided by Google's DoubleClick network, to see the company's social '+1' button embedded within.

The letter --- posted online [PDF] --- explains that the report originally filed by the Wall Street Journal comes "less than a year after the company reached a settlement agreement with the FTC".

It goes on to say that the regulatory body "alleged that the company used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy promises to consumers when Google Buzz was launched in 2010."

It adds: "Google and the FTC agreed on a settlement than bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations; requires Google to implement a comprehensive privacy policy; and initiates regular, independent privacy audits of the company for the next two decades."

Google is already under the spotlight by U.S. and European authorities alike after it announced it would consolidate its privacy policies across its products and services into one.

If the FTC investigates and finds Google guilty, it could lead to fines of $16,000 per violation per day, and would force the company into changing its privacy practices.

Image credit: CBS News.

Related:

Topics: Google, Apple, Browser, IT Employment, Operating Systems

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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