Privacy groups ask FTC to investigate Facebook for ‘secretly tracking users’

By on September 30, 2011 at 11:00 PM.

Privacy groups ask FTC to investigate Facebook for ‘secretly tracking users’

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and seven other privacy groups have contacted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate Facebook for “secretly tracking users after they logged off of Facebook’s webpage.” A 34-page complaint filed by EPIC asks for an injunction, investigation and “other relief” from the social network. EPIC said Facebook is home to more than 60 billion photographs and alleges it developed its “tag suggestions” feature to collect data on Facebook users “without knowledge of consent in order to develop facial recognition technology.” The complaint specifically states:

Given these extraordinary circumstances, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, The Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Watchdog, and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, urge the Commission to investigate Facebook, determine the extent of the harm to consumer privacy and safety, require Facebook to cease collection and use of users’ biometric data without their affirmative opt-in consent, require Facebook to give users meaningful control over their personal information, establish appropriate security safeguards, limit the disclosure of user information to third parties, and seek appropriate injunctive and compensatory relief.

EPIC’s letter also details how the social network violates its own terms of service and shows how hard it is for a user who has been tagged in a photo to delete the original image which, in most cases, is owned by somebody else. EPIC wants Facebook to create a detailed privacy program and to immediately suspend its face-tagging feature. More →

44 Comments

Google rivals head to D.C. for antitrust dogpile

By on September 21, 2011 at 8:15 PM.

Google rivals head to D.C. for antitrust dogpile

Expedia, Nextag and Yelp are in Washington, D.C. to participate in a Senate judiciary antitrust subcommittee hearing about whether or not Google has acted anti-competitively in the market. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is one of the executives who has been asked to provide testimony during the hearing and he has posted his written testimony on Yelp’s website. “Google is no longer in the business of sending people to the best sources of information on the web,” Stoppelman said. “It now hopes to be a destination site itself for one vertical market after another, including news, shopping, travel and now, local business reviews. It would be one thing if these efforts were conducted on a level playing field, but the reality is they are not.” Read on for more. More →

32 Comments

FTC antitrust investigators hone in on Android

By on August 11, 2011 at 12:45 PM.

FTC antitrust investigators hone in on Android

Antitrust investigators with the Federal Trade Commission are focusing on Google’s Android operating system and web search services, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Reportedly, there is some concern that Google prevents its Android partners from implementing services provided by Google’s competitors to their smartphones. One example comes from backin May, when Google blocked Motorola from using Skyhook Wireless’ location services on its phones. The FTC is also investigating whether Google promotes its own services over its rivals, and whether it actually uses data that its competitors have collected, such as local reviews, to populate its own results. The FTC announced that it was opening an investigation into Google’s business practices on June 24th and, at the time, Google said that it was not clear what the FTC’s concerns were. The search giant said that it will cooperate fully and will continue to follow its five pillars: “do what’s best for the user,” “provide the most relevant answers as quickly as possible,” “label advertisements clearly,” “be transparent,” and “loyalty, not lock-in.”

44 Comments

European Commission now investigating nine formal antitrust complaints against Google

By on August 2, 2011 at 7:15 PM.

European Commission now investigating nine formal antitrust complaints against Google

The European Commission now has a total of nine formal antitrust complaints targeting Google, Reuters reported on Tuesday. “The new complaints come from small companies,” one source told the news outlet, and another said two of the complaints were new while three came from national regulators. Until Tuesday, the EC had only confirmed that there were four total complaints. Microsoft has also filed a formal complaint with the European Commission and its general counsel, Brad Smith, said that the search giant “has engaged in a broadening pattern of walling off access to content and data that competitors need to provide search results to consumers and to attract advertisers.” Microsoft has argued that Google has a 95% grip of the European search market. The European Commission is also investigating Google for anticompetitive advertising practices and, in June, the Federal Trade Commission in the United States announced that it will investigate Google’s business practices. The search giant has said in the past that it will be fully compliant with the investigation. More →

9 Comments

Google chairman Eric Schmidt to testify during Senate antitrust hearing

By on July 11, 2011 at 4:01 PM.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt to testify during Senate antitrust hearing

Google’s chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt has agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, Reuters reported on Monday. On June 24th, Google announced that the Federal Trade Commission would be reviewing its business practices. The search giant said it was “still unclear” as to what the FTC’s concerns were but that it would cooperate fully with the investigation. Watchdog groups such as Fairsearch.org have repeatedly accused Google of eangaging in anti-competitive behavior. “I look forward to discussing a number of important issues relating to Google and Internet search competition,” Senator Mike Lee, the lead Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s anti-trust subcommittee said. More →

15 Comments

French search company 1PlusV sues Google for $421 million

By on June 28, 2011 at 8:30 PM.

French search company 1PlusV sues Google for $421 million

1PlusV, a French search company, has filed a lawsuit against Google asking for 295 million euros ($421 million). “Between 2007 and 2010, no less than 30 vertical search engines created by 1plusV were black-listed, some of which showed significant business potential,” the company said in its lawsuit. According to Reuters, 1PlusV plans to file the official complaint on Tuesday or Wednesday with the Paris commercial court. Google has been taking a lot of legal heat recently. In the United States, Google recently addressed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s investigation into its business practices, and it has also faced a similar lawsuit in Europe. In March, Microsoft announced that it was filing a complaint against Google with the European Trade Commission. More →

10 Comments

Google addresses FTC investigation into its business practices

By on June 24, 2011 at 2:53 PM.

Google addresses FTC investigation into its business practices

Google officially announced on Friday that it received word on Thursday that the Federal Trade Commission will begin reviewing its business. Google said that “it’s still unclear what the FTC’s concerns are,” but early reports have suggested the complaints involve the Internet giant’s search and online advertising businesses. Google said that it will continue to follow its five pillars: “do what’s best for the user,” “provide the most relevant answers as quickly as possible,” “label advertisements clearly,” “be transparent,” and “loyalty, not lock-in.” “These are the principles that guide us, and we know they’ll stand up to scrutiny. We’re committed to giving you choices, ensuring that businesses can grow and create jobs, and, ultimately, fostering an Internet that benefits us all,” Amit Singhal, a Google Fellow, wrote on the company blog Friday. There are, however, some groups that are concerned Google is becoming a monopoly. Read on for more background. More →

8 Comments

FTC may subpoena Google in anti-trust investigation

By on June 24, 2011 at 11:10 AM.

FTC may subpoena Google in anti-trust investigation

The Federal Communications Commission may subpoena Google during the next five days as part of an anti-trust investigation related to the company’s search and web advertising practices. According to The Wall Street Journal, it is only illegal to purchase or abuse a monopoly, and so a subpoena and an investigation aren’t particularly damning to Google. Reportedly, investigators will examine if the search giant has purposely pushed users towards using its own services, as opposed to those offered by its rivals, using its own online advertising and search network. “Google engages in anticompetitive behavior…that harms consumers by restricting the ability of other companies to compete to put the best products and services in front of Internet users, who should be allowed to pick winners and losers online, not Google,” Fairsearch.org said. The watchdog group is representing a number of Google competitors Expedia, Kayak, Sabre Holdings, and Microsoft. Google faced a similar threat from the Justice Department in April when it proposed buying ITA software, but it settled by allowing the government body to examine some of its practices. The WSJ said a subpoena and an investigation could take a year to wrap-up, and it’s entirely possible nothing will change. More →

19 Comments

Google reaches settlement with FTC in Google Buzz privacy case

By on March 30, 2011 at 12:12 PM.

Google reaches settlement with FTC in Google Buzz privacy case

On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced it has reached a settlement with Google over its controversial Google Buzz social network. The FTC charged Google with using “deceptive tactics and [violating] its own privacy promises to consumers” when it launched Google Buzz — its Twitter-like social network — in 2010. The FTC’s proposed settlement will bar Google from “future privacy misrepresentations,” and requires that Google implement a comprehensive privacy program. The FTC has also called for regular, independent privacy audits during the next 20 years. “When companies make privacy pledges, they need to honor them,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FCC. “This is a tough settlement that ensures that Google will honor its commitments to consumers and build strong privacy protections into all of its operations.” The FTC argued that some Google users who declined to participate in Google Buzz were still enrolled in some features of the service. Similarly, it said that those who did decide to join Google Buzz were often confused on how to control the privacy settings.  This is not the only lawsuit that was brought against Google in relation to its Buzz service. In November 2010 Google was required to create an $8.5 million fund dedicated to “promoting privacy education on the web” as the result of a class action lawsuit.  Hit the jump for the full release. More →

5 Comments

FTC to formally investigate Apple's iPhone policies

By on June 12, 2010 at 3:04 PM.

FTC to formally investigate Apple's iPhone policies

Apple Logo-Black + White

According to a new report, the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission have come to an agreement that the latter will open a formal investigation into Apple’s iPhone policies. The investigation will look into whether or not Apple’s prohibiting developers from using cross-compilers is anti-competitive. It is unclear whether or not the FTC will also look at Apple’s ban of Adobe Flash on iOS devices as well as section 3.3.9 of the iOS developers agreement which blocks Google’s AdMob from serving ads on the iPhone and iPad. The Department of Justice is said to be in the preliminary stages of an investigation into whether or not Apple has an unfair advantage in digital music distribution. But for the matter at hand, the FTC faces a tough challenge with its investigation. Apple claims it is essential that iOS applications are natively developed to ensure quality and compatibility. Previous experiments with cross-compilers led to what Apple claims were inferior applications, something it fears could damage the platforms reputation for quality applications. On the other hand, many believe that Apple enjoys far too much control over its products and this creates a lack of competition which does nothing but hurt developers and consumers alike. Neither Apple nor the FTC have commented on the matter. More →

125 Comments

FTC green-lights Google AdMob deal

By on May 21, 2010 at 1:12 PM.

FTC green-lights Google AdMob deal

AdMob_Google

The Federal Trade Commission had been investigating Google’s bid to buy mobile advertising firm AdMob…that is until today. In an official statement, the FTC wrote, “after thoroughly reviewing the deal…it is unlikely to harm competition in the emerging market for mobile advertising networks.” Apple’s decision to venture into the mobile advertising space (see iAd), seems to have helped Google, as the FTC explains: “As a result of Apple’s entry (into the market), AdMob’s success to date on the iPhone platform is unlikely to be an accurate predictor of AdMob’s competitive significance going forward, whether AdMob is owned by Google or not.” The acquisition provides yet another front in the “mobile war” for Apple and Google to fight on. Let the games begin! More →

11 Comments

Schmidt candid about AdMob, Apple on the eve of I/O 2010

By on May 19, 2010 at 5:00 AM.

Schmidt candid about AdMob, Apple on the eve of I/O 2010

eric-schmidt

On the eve of I/O 2010, Google CEO Eric Schmidt made some pretty interesting comments to Reuters. First and foremost on his mind was AdMob, the mobile advertising giant that Google has been trying to acquire since November of last year. The $750 million deal is currently on hold as the FTC looks into whether or not the sale could negatively impact developers that rely on mobile ad revenue. Although confident the deal will eventually be given the thumbs up, Schmidt vowed that his company would “fight very hard” if blocked. As Schmidt put it, Google’s purchase of AdMob would allow it to open up “a more competitive market on the iPhone platform,” an obvious dig at section 3.3.9 of the iPhone developers agreement which prohibits apps from collecting and sending device data “to a third party for processing or analysis.” Despite all of the relatively tough talk, Schmidt reiterated previous comments that Apple and Google will continue to work together when mutually beneficial and that he and Steve Jobs still get along. Good to know. The question is: How does Steve feel? More →

7 Comments

Federal antitrust probe of Apple extended to include iAd

By on May 4, 2010 at 11:58 AM.

Federal antitrust probe of Apple extended to include iAd

iad

According to The Wall Street Journal, the federal antitrust probe looking into alleged anti-competitive practices by Apple has been extended to include an investigation of Apple’s recently announced iAd service. Citing “people familiar with the matter” (natch), the WSJ reports that both the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are taking a close look at Apple’s decision to prohibit developers from extrapolating analytical data from users devices. The main concern is that Apple will effectively be able to lock out competing advertising services from the iPhone OS by making it difficult for advertisers to properly target their ads. The most recent version of the iPhone developers agreement makes it clear in section 3.3.9 that “The use of third-party software in Your Application to collect and send Device Data to a third party for processing or analysis is expressly prohibited.” Several anonymous iPhone developers as well as at least one AdMob employee were said to have discussed the matter with the FTC, as was a wireless advertising executive who was approached by the FTC in its quest to learn about what implications, if any, section 3.3.9 will have on the wireless advertising industry. At this point in time there is no guarantee Apple will actually be rung up in an antitrust suit, but the fact alone that the government is keeping such close tabs is surely not a good sign for the Cupertino company. More →

41 Comments