Tag Archives: Politico

Federal Court Forces The FTC To Take Lawsuit Against Google More Seriously

Last week, I published on this site a post I wrote and titled – “Google is sued over privacy violations and breaking terms of settlement“. In that post, I discussed how a privacy advocacy group, The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), sued the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for not doing its job adequately. If you need further detail on this, please go read that post first and then return to this one: click here

Okay, so after EPIC filed its complaint to legally force the FTC to punish Google for breaking the terms of settlement – the FTC tried to delay the process by claiming that EPIC’s complaint was without merit and that they would need an extended period of time to even review the complaint anyway. Of course, EPIC was not going to let the FTC stall for time because time is of the essence in this case as the changes to Google’s privacy policies takes effect on the 1st of March. EPIC demanded a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction designed to compel the FTC to enforce the consent order it placed on Google.

A federal court then stepped in last Thursday, February 9th, and told the FTC that its dismissal of the complaint filed by EPIC as being without merit was ridiculous. The court then forced the FTC to respond to EPIC’s complaint no later than Friday, February 17th. The court then added that EPIC will need to respond to the FTC’s investigation by the following Tuesday, February 21st.

EPIC had this to say,

“We believe the change is a clear violation of the consent order,” EPIC’s Rotenberg said Wednesday. “EPIC  filed the suit because the FTC has both the authority and the obligation to enforce its consent orders, and [Google’s] changes will take place in less than three weeks if the FTC fails to act.”

As part of settlement Google made with the FTC after the whole major Google Buzz privacy violation, Google was told that it has to file mandatory “privacy compliance” reports with the FTC on a regular basis for 20 years. The first of these reports was submitted by Google to the FTC back in January, 26th, 2012. However, this self-assessment report was only made public last Friday, February 10th. EPIC actually filed a Freedom of Information Act request to retrieve the document from the FTC – but before the request could get fully processed, Google decided to release it publicly voluntarily before it would legally be forced out anyway.

Google gave the report to the political journalism website Politico and they published an article about it they very same day, as revealed yesterday by John Fontana of ZDNet.com

Okay – I have complained on here before about the way the news media covers Google and how they handle the company with kid gloves. Please do not think that I pull this observation of bias and lousy journalism out of thin air. I only report what I plainly see and what’s so evident to me.

Take for example this Politico article the website published last Friday regarding the privacy compliance report by Google and EPIC. Politico titled their article: “Google tells FTC of progress on privacy“. Now, that title alone is incredibly biased in favor of Google. You don’t even need to read the entire article because that title alone is so silly – I mean, “progress on privacy”? C’mon! That’s what Google claims, not fact!

All I am saying that the headline is not balanced and objective enough, but it’s to be expected considering that Google did after all hand deliver the report to the website and then they wrote a flattering article as a ‘thank you’.

You can read that article for yourself. But be warned though – the article defends Google a lot and paints EPIC as unreasonable whiners. Click here.

Anyhow, after the report was made public, EPIC obviously responded to it. EPIC says that the report actually now raises new questions about Google’s failure to comply with the FTC consent order. The order required Google to answer, in detail, questions regarding how it protects the personal information of its users. EPIC argued that Google chose not to answer many questions – most significantly, Google failed to explain how the changes to its privacy policies next month will impact users.

Moreover, in Google’s report, it states:

“An email will be sent to every Google Account holder, except those associated with enterprise (Google Apps) customers. A separate email will be sent to the registered administrators of Google Apps domains, so that they notify their users as they see fit.”

This means that Google sent out emails to every single person who has an account with Google’s free email service, Gmail. The emails have the subject line “Changes to Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service“. Google also claims that it sent out these same emails only to companies that use its technology to power their email service, but it only sent them to administrators and not every single person.

However, there have been complaints in Britain from people who use Virgin Media and Sky email services receiving these emails from Google too. People were upset that Google knew their email address and that the company was sending them emails on changes to privacy policies even though they are not Google users. People got creeped out by Google knowing stuff about them that even they had no idea Google knew.

Google claimed that it was glitch and that the emails should have only been sent to administrators. However, others have come forward claiming that they also received emails from Google even though they don’t hold accounts with Google at all and their email service is not affiliated with Google in any way whatsoever. Personally, I have also received that email into one of my email inbox and I have no connection to Google at all. There is more to this than Google is willing to tell us and it certainly is creepy.

The FTC’s response to EPIC’s lawsuit is due this coming Friday – I will keep you posted on how this develops.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center have a website of their own, you can visit it by clicking here

PCPro.co.uk.com article explaning the emails Google sent to people who do not hold Gmail accounts, click here

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