U.S. lawmakers call on FTC to investigate Google over Safari cookies

The lawmakers are concerned that Google may have violated a consent agreement it reached with the FTC last year

Three lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives have asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether last week's report of privacy violations of Safari users by Google violated a consent agreement the company had reached with the FTC last year.

Google's alleged circumvention of do-not-track controls on Apple's Safari browser could have a wide sweeping impact because Safari is a major web browser used by millions of Americans, according to a letter to the FTC on Friday from Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida and Joe Barton of Texas, and Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts.

"As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are interested in any actions that FTC has taken or plans to take to investigate whether Google has violated the terms of its consent agreement," the lawmakers said in the letter.

"We are taking steps to address concerns, and we are happy to answer any questions regulators and others may have," Google spokesman Chris Gaither said in an email.

The consent order entered on Oct. 13 among other things bars Google from making misrepresentations regarding its privacy policies, and requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program, including retaining an independent third-party professional to assess its privacy controls every two years, FTC said.

The alleged Safari circumvention could lead to large fines if the FTC decides that Google violated the consent agreement.

The three senators were one of eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives who asked last month for FTC scrutiny of Google's decision to share user data across its online services, and said they wanted Google to provide users a simple and straightforward opt out from the data collection.

A number of privacy groups asked the FTC last week to investigate the alleged circumvention of Safari controls.

Google said it did not intentionally install tracking cookies. "We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled," Rachel Whetstone, Google senior vice president for communications and public policy, said in a statement. "It's important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information."

The FTC said last week it was aware of the allegations against Google, but it is likely to want to set the pace for its investigations, as indicated by a filing in a related lawsuit before a federal court in the District of Columbia filed by Electronic Privacy Information Center,

EPIC had alleged that Google's proposed consolidation of data across its services, that will take effect on March 1, will result in a violation of the consent order. It asked the court to compel the FTC to file a civil action in a U.S court to enforce a consent order.

But the government said in the filing Friday that "no statutory provision circumscribes the Commission's decision whether to initiate enforcement proceedings; thus, such a decision is not subject to judicial review". Forcing the Commission to bring a particular enforcement action within an arbitrary time limit would be wholly inimical to the public interest in the effective enforcement of the laws that Congress has passed to protect the public and entrusted the FTC to enforce, it added.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?