The other day the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a strongly worded report condemning Google’s privacy violations and the company’s deliberate obstruction of an investigation into the gathering of sensitive data off personal computers.
The FCC was deeply disturbed by what Google did but they’re hands were pretty much tied and couldn’t take serious action against Google. The federal agency fined Google $25,000 for impeding their investigation and they said what Google did was technically not illegal. According to PCWorld, this is because the laws are not up-to-date with technology. What Google did was obviously an invasion of privacy and SHOULD be illegal but Google seems to have gotten away scot-free because there aren’t laws that protect Americans from criminals who steal their personal data off unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.
Anyway, I came across an article yesterday by the Mercury News stating that Google is about to be hit hard by another federal agency, this time it’s the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). As you all should already know, the FTC has been in the middle of conducting their investigation on Google’s illegal circumvention of Apple’s Safari Web browser.
The Wall Street Journal exposed Google back in February for deliberately bypassing the privacy and security settings of Safari users. Apple set the default setting on its Safari browser to maximum security to protect their users from tracking companies – Google hated this and used a secret code to bypass this security setting. This exposed millions of Safari users to tracking for months without them every knowing about it. Immediately after the Journal released their story several lawsuits against Google popped up.
Now, according to the Mercury News, the major fine against Google is imminent. The newspaper spoke to a source who says that the FTC will take action against Google within a month. The FTC already has a consent order against Google which was put in place late last year. Google violated the privacy of their users when they launched their failed social networking tool called “Buzz”. After an investigation, Google agreed to a settlement that would require the company to regularly submit a compliance report to the FTC and they agreed to two decades of close monitoring from the FTC. Google also promised never to violate the privacy of their users or any company’s users – evidently they couldn’t keep their promise.
Google faces a fine of $16,000 per violation per day. There were millions of Apple users affected and victimized by this invasion of privacy so you can imagine that the fine could be colossal. Let’s hope the FTC puts Google in its place and hits them hard – Google definitely deserves it.
For more information:
PCWorld, “Google Says Snooping on Wi-Fi Networks Isn’t Illegal” – click here
Mercury News, “Google target of new federal privacy probe” – click here
Computerworld, “Privacy watchdog, lawmaker push for Google probe” – click here
The Register, “Google faces WHOPPING FTC fine for Safari privacy gaffe” – click here
The Hill, “FTC official: Sharing on social sites ‘can’t be forced’” – click here
It was reported yesterday that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Google $25,000 for not cooperating with an investigation over Google’s massive invasion of privacy involving its Street View service.
The FCC said that Google “deliberately impeded and delayed” its investigation. Google made it very difficult for investigators to gain access to employees and hid important evidence. Google did not answer emails and the company even tried to hide the identities of the employees involved in the privacy violations from two years ago.
In 2010, Google’s Street View cars collected very private information from unencrypted home computers. When Google was caught doing this it apologized and said that it didn’t deliberately try to capture private data. Soon after the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated and sided with Google’s explanation that it was a mistake. Although the US didn’t take the massive privacy violation seriously, European countries were more concerned.
The $25,000 Google is now forced to pay will do nothing to the company’s bottom line. Google raked in about $40 billion last year. Over 90% of Google’s revenues come from advertising – this means that Google makes money by selling your personal data to advertisers. This is the reason Google consolidated their privacy policies into a singular policy – it makes it easier for the company to figure you out and it’s more profitable. A Google spokesman said that the company is on a mission to combat against “the faceless Web”.
Google paying a $25,000 fine is like an average person paying a one cent fine – but don’t get too hung up on the amount of that fine. The biggest hit Google received from this new report by the FCC is its reputation. Most people think way too highly of this company and if more reports like this come out to expose Google’s dirt then the better it will be for the general public.
I love what Christina DesMarais, PCWorld, wrote in her article:
“…if Google’s uncooperative behavior is true as the FCC maintains, the obvious question is, ‘What is Google hiding?’ Consumers and advocacy groups have often criticized Google’s seemingly insatiable appetite for personal information, such as its recent consolidation of its privacy policies so as to have a better view into user behaviors and preferences. Because of the amount of attention those privacy concerns have garnered, you’d think a policy of transparency on Google’s part would bode well with those who have doubts about whether or not the company can be trusted with increasing amounts of personal data.”
Things that make you go hmmm…
For more information:
The New York Times, “Google Is Faulted for Impeding U.S. Inquiry on Data Collection” – click here
PCWorld, “Google Hit With $25K Fine, But FCC Finds Street View Data Collection Not Illegal” – click here
CNET, “FCC nails Google with $25K fine for dragging heels in StreetView probe” – click here