Jan 26: Eight American lawmakers, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, send a letter to Google saying that they are concerned about Google’s plans to change its privacy policies and terms of service. In a separate strongly worded letter Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif and Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D- NC send a letter to the CEO of Google to ask him to appear before Congress.
Feb 1: Rival Microsoft Corp. runs full-page newspaper ads slamming Google and its new policy. Microsoft uses the opportunity to tout its own Web-based alternatives, saying for instance that users of its free email service, Hotmail, don’t have to worry about the content of their emails being used to help target ads.
Feb 2: CEO, Larry Page, declined to appear before Congress, but he sent two of his executive minions to appear instead. After being grilled for two hours, the Google executives failed to ease the concerns of the members of Congress. In fact, they made things worse. Rep. Mary Bono Mack said that the Google executives were not “forthcoming” and that she left the meeting even more confused and concerned than she had going into it. She suggested that Americans should stop using Google services “if Google goes too far”
Feb 3: The European Union’s data protection authorities release a letter to Google asking the company to delay the new policy until they have verified that it doesn’t break the bloc’s data protection laws. Google says it had briefed data protection agencies beforehand and had heard no substantial concerns then.
Feb 8: A consumer watchdog group sues the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to prevent Google from making its planned changes. The Electronic Privacy Information Center contends Google’s new policies would violate restrictions imposed in an agreement reached with the FTC last year.
Feb 16: The Wall Street Journal publishes an article exposing Google’s spying. The article revealed that Google deliberately bypassed security and privacy settings of Apple’s Safari web browser so that Google could track those users. Google admitted that it purposely bypassed the privacy setting, which resulted in Apple users being tracked without their knowledge. The following day, several Apple users file a class-action lawsuit against Google for violating their privacy.
Feb 20: Microsoft writes a blog post to reveal that Internet Explorer browser users were exposed to tracking too by Google. Microsoft said that Google deliberately confused a security protocol feature, which resulted in tracking cookies to be set on Internet Explorer browsers.
Feb 23: The White House unveils a consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. The proposal is intended to give Internet users back control of their personal data and protect their online privacy. However, these proposed new guidelines are not mandatory for Google and advertisers to abide by and emphasizes self-regulation too much. Immediately after the White House made the announcement, Google finally caved and said that they will include a ‘Do Not Track’ option for their Chrome web browser. Google’s web browser was the only one that did not have this anti-tracking functionality, while everybody else’s did. Google says it will include the Do Not Track by the end of the year. Why does it need to take that long? Who knows…it’s Google.
Feb 24: Google hires Susan Molinari as their head lobbyist in Washington. Ms. Molinari has extensive close ties with the Republican establishment. She was once a Republican representative in Congress herself. Google hired her because they want to influence how lawmakers vote in the coming months. They hope that Ms. Molinari can convince Republican lawmakers to vote against stringent online privacy laws.
Feb 28: France’s regulator says a preliminary analysis finds that Google’s new policy appears to violate European data-protection rules. The regulatory agency CNIL says Google’s explanation of how it will use the data is too vague and difficult to understand “even for trained privacy professionals.”