Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

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.

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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.

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

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15 comments
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  • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

    This all a blow up over nothing. The code in question was allowed by webkit/Safari.

    https://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=35824
    Kilz
  • this is an outrageous interference with Google business

    instigated by by paid $hills that abuse their office at the direction of the evil software companies like apple and M$. Instead of whining these lame competitors should secure their software or open it for inspection by the community.
    The Linux Geek
    • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

      @The Linux Geek
      Nah; Barton's the only one who received more money in the last 2 cycles (2010, 2012 election cycles) from Microsoft than Google...Stearns and Markey received more money from Google than Microsoft.
      gork platter
      • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

        @gork platter
        Receiving money from M$, a convicted monopolist should raise red flags and dismiss this tortuous interference with Google business practices. Google's press release should be enough for all those concerned about privacy.
        The Linux Geek
      • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

        @gork platter : Maybe you should back up your claim with actual facts? Where did you get this "information" or did you just thought it up? Nice to be biased. Huh? [I could claim that you were paid by Apple to say what you've said - and I'm sure someone reasing this blog would believe me.]
        Gisabun
  • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

    If only members of Congress knew how to use their computers without IT help.
    gork platter
  • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

    Don't apologize for Googles bad behavior here. They knew what they were doing and need to correct it.
    AdonisSMU
  • It's an election year

    Congress really cares about the privicy of U.S. consumers, err ... citizens. Right? Right!? Thats why almost anything privacy-related is opt-out rather than opt-in. With few exceptions, the corporations (remember, they are people too) win.

    Enough ranting ... it's time to spill my guts, yet again, on Facebook. Just kidding. ;)
    Rabid Howler Monkey
  • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

    I hope they nail Mr. Google's butt to the wall. I have a brain and I know how to use it. I don't need google or anyone else helping me or targeting my ads for me as if I am too stupid to find things myself. Every day we learn that hackers have gotten ahold of more info, and I want as little of my info out there as possible. NOBODY has a right to it.<br><br>If people want to give out their information, fine, but I want a permanent, mandatory OPT-OUT button for folks like me that do not want any of my information leaving my home except when I give it to the folks I deal with directly (like my bank).
    Simple-Sense
    • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

      @Simple-Sense
      then you should go and live in woods! Real people enjoy google because it is free and best.
      The Linux Geek
      • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

        @The Linux Geek <br><br>Put your money where your mouth is... post all of your own personal data you feel comfortable posting online. Here's your big chance to prove your point.
        TechNickle
    • check your bank's website where you login to do online banking

      and I bet it refers the page to "google-analytics".
      Mahegan
  • RE: Congress demands FTC investigation into Google's Safari tracking

    as i said in another article, if safari does stop all cookies but those from the same apple inc, was the user informed about this? is it not a monopoly behavior if i change the contents of content providers except from my own brand? the cookies were placed on the pages by the content creators of the pages, is it not apple who is using its browser to do wrong, if i choose to block all cookies but my own, or all competing cookies?
    voodoochicken
  • Some argue, if Safari allows it, it's okay...

    If my front door lock's pickable, is it okay to burgle my house? If my window's breakable and my TV's in plain sight is it okay? I hope not: I'd just as soon not live in a bomb shelter with double combination doors making a fire exit or an emergency medical rescue a risky matter.

    Google took a knowing and purposeful action to violate Safari users' "assumptions" that they'd be safe from tracking. Google emulated tracking beyond third-party by emulating a momentary form-completion (click the Like, pard, and you've filled out the form, or left a cookie that'll remain to track you NEXT time you logon to Google).

    Oh, Google argues, it was "accidental". Right. "We didn't drop it. It fell."
    fjpoblam
  • Perhaps someone senior ought to go to jail

    "Settlements" for criminal offences committed by corporations undermines the progress in law for over the last thousand years. Once in time (during Anglo-Saxon England) there was "bounty law" - meaning that even if one committed murder, it was OK provided one "settled" with the in-laws. The progress in law meant that crimes like murder became an offence against the state, and the perpetrator could not "settle" with the in-laws. These events coincided with the rise of the Common Law system.
    I doubt whether any Court would issue a "cease trading" order against companies committing serious crime, but it would be nice to see a few senior executives go to jail for a while for committing crime.
    Mahegan