Tag Archives: Law

Australian Federal Court: Google’s Ads Are “Misleading And Deceptive”

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

An Australian court said that Google engages in “misleading and deceptive” conduct because of the ads it chooses to display. Google was sued last year for misleading its users but a lower court didn’t think Google was liable for what its advertisers do and ruled in favor of Google.

But The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) appealed this decision in the Federal Court and won. This is a major defeat for Google who thought it could get away scot-free but now has to comply with this new ruling.

The issue involves advertisers buying keywords and placing ads using the name of a major competitor. So when a Google search engine user clicked on an ad thinking they were going to be directed to the website of a particular travel agency, they would actually be redirected to its competitor’s website. Google’s AdWords program permitted all sorts of companies to engage in this deceptive act to trick users. These companies bought search terms that returned Google’s sponsored results and redirected users to websites of rival companies.

For example, a company called CarSales bought search terms and ad space from Google. The company’s ad included this headline in their advertisement: “Honda.com.au”. When Google users clicked on that ad they thought they were going to Honda’s website but they were actually redirected to CarSales’ website.

The ACCC’s Chairman, Rod Sims, said in a statement:

“The ACCC brought this appeal because it raises very important issues as to the role of search engine providers as publishers of paid content in the online age,” Sims said. “This is an important outcome because it makes it clear that Google and other search engine providers which use similar technology to Google will be directly accountable for misleading or deceptive paid search results”

Google is upset and “disappointed” by the court’s decision. Obviously, it believes that it’s completely innocent *yawn*. Google is throwing its advertisers under the bus by claiming that it is totally their fault for misleading customers – Google claims that it just gives these advertisers the platform to show their ads and isn’t involved any further.

Yeah, whatever…

The Federal Court is forcing Google to pay the ACCC’s court costs and Google must implement a compliance program.

For more information:

The Register, “Google ads ‘misleading and deceptive’” – click here

The Australian, “Google ads ruling hands win to watchdog” – click here

CNET, “Google charged with ‘deceptive’ conduct in search ads” – click here

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BBC: Internet Privacy Paranoia Or Legitimate Concerns

The BBC published an interesting article today about Internet privacy. Google is the biggest of the Big Brothers and collects your information more than any other Internet company in the world – it even rivals some repressive government intrusion on the personal lives of citizens. Google does not give users explicit consent to sell their personal data to third parties, Google does not allow users to opt-out of data harvesting, and Google is not completely forthcoming about exactly what they do with our personal data.

Please read through the BBC article for yourself. The strong desire to protect our personal information on the Internet is definitely not paranoia, it’s simply being smart. Several recent surveys have shown that the vast majority of Internet users are deeply concerned about privacy on the Internet but many don’t know how to protect themselves. The media and governments need to make sure that people are educated about online safety and have strong laws in place to protect innocent people.

By the way – I love the “Big Brother” (or Big Google) eye picture the BBC accompanied with the article :)

Read more – click here

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Is It Legally Impossible To Go After Google Over Privacy Violations?

English: Gavel

Yesterday, I informed you that Google is facing a lot of legal trouble. When Google deliberately bypassed browser security of Apple Safari users, the company has been hit with countless lawsuits. Many Apple users are furious with Google for exposing them to spying and collecting their personal data without their permission. You can’t blame them for wanting to get some legal assistance to send a Google a clear message that privacy is a fundamental right you just can’t violate.

However, it seems like these people have an uphill battle. What Google did is wrong and despicable, but it will be extremely difficult to go after them legally. First of all, Google is a massive company with deep pockets and it’s heavily surrounded by lawyers. In addition, past legal cases have shown that courts often don’t do anything about breaches of online privacy. There have been people who sued Internet companies before and majority of them end up losing. The law isn’t currently on the side of the average user because the law doesn’t recognize online privacy as it should! Americans are completely vulnerable to these Internet companies and they can’t even seek protection from their courts of justice!

I read an excellent and informative article by Gerry Silver, a lawyer who specializes in IT litigation. In his article, titled “’Do Not Track’ – Online Privacy Litigation Now and in the Future”, Mr. Silver admits that people who seek court relief to tackle online privacy concerns are pretty much wasting their time. The courts do nothing about Internet companies, like Google, harvesting our personal data and using it for their own purposes – whatever it may be.

People have tried various ways to seek out some sort of justice from the courts to protect their online privacy – but it has all resulted in limited to no success.  Lawsuits have been filed claiming that Internet companies violated various laws, most commonly including:     

  • The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
  • The Wiretap Act
  • Stored Communication Act
  • Deceptive Act or Practice/ Unfair Competition Statutes
  • Trespass to Chattels
  • Contract-Based Claims
  • Right of Publicity Claims

 Many of these claims against the Internet companies fail because the courts force victims to prove their personal data has significant monetary value. They can’t claim damage on personal data because it doesn’t have real value apparently. Often times these third-parties that track you all over the Internet are not considered uninvited intruders – even though they steal your personal data without your full consent, they are off the hook if a website’s terms of service give them permission.

Many people don’t even know that there are hundreds of tracking companies that steal their personal data all the time. This collection of data is done completely without the permission of users and the vast majority of people are in the dark about tracking on the Internet to even voice their concerns against it.

It’s a real shame that the courts can’t really do anything about online privacy because the laws don’t go far enough. People have nowhere to turn but to pressure their representatives in government to pass comprehensive legislation that gives Americans more rights over their personal data. Mr. Silver writes that the new consumer online Privacy Bill of Rights (unveiled by the White House last month) is a good first step in getting Americans the desperately needed help to fight back against Internet companies – but it doesn’t go far enough.

“The institution of the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights and legislation arising therefrom may provide users with more control over what personal data companies collect and how they use it… However, Internet companies will still be able to use the information as part of their own market research and product development. Also, future compliance with the “Do Not Track” button appears to be voluntary at this point, meaning advertisers or other Internet companies may decide to attempt to override it.”

The White House proposal is still in its early stages, but if this proposed consumer Privacy Bill of Rights amounts to nothing meaningful for Americans then it won’t change the lack of support shown to victimized Americans and the dismal situation in the courts. More Americans will still go through lengthy and expensive legal tug-of-war with these Internet companies and Americans will always end up losing. Currently, Internet companies have everything in their favor and Americans simply don’t have enough protections.

English: Author: Irish Tug of War Source: (OWN)

Put the pressure on government representatives to act in favor of the average Internet user. Let them know that you’re serious about your online safety and that your personal data is yours alone. Privacy is not a privilege, it’s a right! The Internet companies and Google are ripping us off. They are taking, stealing, and milking us dry of our personal data! Say NO!  People need to care enough to make changes in government, then the government will make necessary legal changes, this will result in a safer Internet for all!

The Apple users suing Google have a strong case against Google – and their case differs from the typical Internet privacy related cases. Google actually used code to deliberately trick their browser into accepting tracking cookies, this code allowed Google to bypass the security setting of their browser which was set to prevent third-party tracking. Apple users had no idea this had happened to them until it was exposed by The Wall Street Journal’s report last month. This is an obvious violation of privacy and it has gone too far! Hopefully, these Apple users suing Google can ultimately triumph! It’s a difficult thing to do, but you gotta keep fighting from all angles until we finally breakthrough.

For more information:

Gerry Silver, “Do Not Track – Online Privacy Litigation Now and in the Future” – click here

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Back Off Google, Please! A Defense Of Privacy

Megan McArdle is a senior editor for The Atlantic. She published an article today titled “Take My Privacy, Please! A Defense of Google“. Needless to say, I disagree with her arguments and I have to respond by writing a point-by-point rebuttal against some of the things she wrote. To read her full article, please click here.

“People love to freak out about incursions on their privacy. And by ‘people’ I mean cable news shows”

  • Yes, people do love to protect their privacy. Those ‘freaked out’ include: several consumer advocacy groups, state attorneys general, members of the US Congress and Senate, the White House, the European Union, several Asian countries, privacy commissioners from around the world, bloggers, and the average person.

“A week ago, Google implemented a plan to aggregate (most of) the data they collect from the many, many products they offer. Not to collect new data. Not to publish or disseminate that data in a new way.”

  • Google’s new privacy policy allows it to collect more personal data by combining data. The consolidation of personal data to combat “the faceless web” (as Google put it) will allow Google to easily figure you out better. It allows Google to take your personal data from YouTube, Gmail, the search engine, and other products –which will then allow them to give you one identity. They want to see users as a single person across all of Google owned products. This will further eliminate anonymity and discourage users from tailoring their identity based on what they’re using. Combining data is a deliberate act of collecting new data. It also allow Google to use that data in new ways, such as selling your personal information to advertisers who want a clearer image of exactly who you are and they can disseminate your data on different Google products.

They’ll sell information about every prescription they fill at CVS — or every pint of Haagen Dazs at Safeway — in exchange for a steady infusion of $1 coupons. They’ll hand off information about the timing of their daily commute in exchange for a couple of minutes saved at a toll booth every day. They’ll let Amazon track their diaper and book purchases because they would rather not re-enter their credit card number every time they want to buy something

  •  We don’t live in a world where people choose to share absolutely nothing about themselves. There can be a healthy amount of personal information we are willing to give away – if we feel it is necessary, beneficial, and controlled. The examples you listed are choices people willingly made for themselves to make their lives easier. Those people who made those choices know the full consequences and can limit the damage to their privacy. Google collects so much information it rivals any government spying around the world to keep track of citizens. Google admits it has very sensitive information about us and their products are ubiquitous. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to escape Google, even when you’re not on a Google owned website. Google has numerous tracking tools to keep a watch on Internet users all the time. Internet users have no idea just how much Google collects about them, where they are being spied on, how they can opt-out, or even if their information is safe. At least if I give my personal information to a store, it’s kept limited to that one store. Google follows users everywhere. So please, stop comparing apples to oranges.

“I think people get a pretty decent bargain when they hand over their personal browsing, search, and email data to Google”

  • It’s far from ‘pretty decent’. Google is gouging us, it’s a total rip-off. Google’s currency of choice is personal data not dollars. Google makes over 90% of its revenues from advertising – the company sells our personal data without our explicit consent for huge profits. Google harvests huge amounts of personal data, including but not limited to: age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, politics, financial information, every website we visit, your location, and the list goes on and on. Google is just one company and this one company knows us better than some of our closest friends. This is not just a simple hand over of a bit of information of here and there – as you tried to downplay it – this is downright alarming and an invasion of our privacy.

Google does its darnedest to sell you stuff you would probably like to buy

  • Those creepy – and yes they’re totally creepy – so called ‘personalized’ ads actually don’t work well. Tracking companies that serve these mutated ads are not doing a very good job of figuring out exactly what we want to buy.  For example, a child might research material on Ford cars for a school assignment and then a few hours later that child receives ads for Ford cars when they never intended on purchasing a car. Now the child knows that somebody was creepily looking over their shoulder and is now trying to sell them something they don’t want. It doesn’t make me want to buy more, it makes me suspicious and it’s a total turn off. If a company gets too aggressive in trying to sell me something, I will buy from their competitor.

This is a fact you cannot change

  • We’re working on it.

If Google… can’t scrape and sort your data…Less of the free stuff you like

  •  Fear-mongering. All we want is to take back control of our personal data and limit the damage to our privacy. It will not result in the doomsday scenario where there will be no Internet. The world won’t end in 2012 and the Internet will still survive if we take back control of our personal data.

Google shrank and simplified their privacy policy…”

  • There is good simplification and then there is bad simplification. The simplification to make something more understandable to the average person is a good thing, but Google hasn’t done this. Google’s new privacy policy takes a few hours to get through and it’s confusing. European regulators have said that Google’s new privacy policy is difficult to make sense of “even for trained professionals”. The new privacy policy also leaves out important details about people’s rights for specific products they use.

 Finally, that little bonus part you wrote to make the Washington Post look bad – again, you’re desperately comparing apples to oranges. By the way, The Atlantic has a ton of trackers on its website – I picked up at least 6 ad networks and 9 ad companies (this doesn’t even include the social networking buttons that track you too). The Atlantic is one of the most tracker infested sites I have come across yet.

And Ms. McArdle, since you care so little about privacy – then please publish everything about yourself that Google has ability to track and share it with the whole world. Let’s see all your searches, all the videos you’ve been watching, who all your friends are on Google Plus, let’s see what you’ve been chatting about with your friends on Gmail, and let’s watch your Hangouts too! Who cares about privacy, right? Privacy is soooooo last millennium.

For more information:

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The EU Justice Commissioner Says Google’s New Privacy Policy Breaks European Law

The European Union’s Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, told BBC Radio Four that Google’s new more intrusive privacy policy breaches privacy laws that are meant to protect European citizens. She made this judgment public on the World At One program the same day Google fully implemented its new privacy policy and two days after a French data protection agency released a report finding Google’s new privacy policy ‘deeply concerning’ (for more on this – click here).

The European Commission is in the process of overhauling their privacy rules so that it can address important issues of the 21st century. They recognize that a greater number of people are spending more time on the Internet. With so many of us spending significant amount of our time on the web, it obviously means that we are in desperate need of greater protections. The Commission wants to streamline privacy rules across all of Europe.

Google announced that they were going to toss out all their privacy policies across all their different services to combine it into a singular policy that would apply to all. Of course, this means now that Google can track you more easily all over the web and make it more efficient to sell your personal data to advertisers.

Europeans are very protective of their online privacy and they were immediately concerned about Google’s announcement, which the company made in late January. European regulators asked Google to delay their new privacy policy until a full investigation could be completed. Google outright refused.

Now, Google has to face the music for its arrogance and lack of respect for the legal process. Google commented several times that it was confident that it was abiding by laws and behaved as if the company knows European law better than the people who made those laws in the first place. They obviously do not and, despite warnings, Google went through with changing their privacy policies.

Google was basically asking for it by ignoring the EU privacy regulators when those regulators asked the company to halt their new privacy policy. It’s as if Google immaturely said to them: “make me!”

Ms. Reding was asked in what respects has Google broken EU laws. She said,

“In numerous respects. One is that nobody had been consulted, it is not in accordance with the law on transparency and it utilizes the data of private persons in order to hand it over to third parties, which is not what the users have agreed to. Protection of personal data is a basic rule of the European Union. It is inscribed in the treaties. It is not an if, it is a must”  

She even went on to say that many people are in dark about the full implications of using Google’s services. The company fails to fully tell users to what extent their information will be stored and to whom it will be shared with. People don’t know what they are getting themselves into:

“Seventy percent of users rarely, or never, use terms and conditions which very often are written in small print, very complicated, not understandable for the normal user, and users are worried. Eighty percent of British citizens say they’re concerned about what is going on now”

She said that companies like Google, which make over 90% of their revenues from advertising, have a business model that leaves users completely vulnerable to violations of their privacy. However, the EU will not sit back and watch Google exploit innocent people who are often times unaware just how much damage is being done to them:

“We know data is the bloodstream of these new industries … but at the same time there are basic European rules … which have to be applied, and unfortunately we always see that those rules are just not observed, and illegality is taking over”

Google – it looks like you’re about to be made.

For more information:

BBC, “Google privacy changes ‘in breach of EU law’” – click here

Reuters, “EU agencies say Google breaking law – commissioner” – click here

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