Welcome!

API Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Ed Featherston, Elizabeth White, Jeev Trika, Kevin Benedict

News Feed Item

Consumer Watchdog Calls On Federal Trade Commission To Act Against Google's App Store Privacy Violations; Says Penalties Should Be In Billions of Dollars

Public Interest Group Also Asks California Attorney General to Investigate

Dial into news conference at 2 pm ET (11 am PT): 800-920-7487 - Dial-In Code: 65248697#

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog today called on the Federal Trade Commission to act immediately against Google's most recent privacy violation – sharing users' personal information with apps developers – and said the penalties for violating a previous consent order should reach into the billions of dollars.

Consumer Watchdog also asked California Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate whether Google's privacy breach also violates California law in addition to violating the so-called "Buzz Consent Order" with the FTC.

"Google has become a serial privacy abuser and the FTC must change its tactics to curb the Internet giant's abuses. Google's wanton disregard for its obligations under the law demonstrate the need for meaningful penalties – in this case a fine in the billions of dollars," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, at a news conference to discuss the nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest group's complaint.

In a seven-page formal letter of complaint to Charles A. Harwood, the FTC's Acting Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Simpson, wrote:

"To no one's surprise (and the Commission's prior statements notwithstanding), the press is now awash in reports that Google has violated the Buzz Order yet again – and this time in a most substantive and egregious manner, by giving personal and closely held information from tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Android users to independent and unrestrained application developers, in contravention of Google's own stated privacy policy (as well as its obligations under the Buzz Order).  This represents the fifth significant misuse of confidential user data by Google in the last three years (previously, the "Wi-Spy" scandal, the Google Buzz fiasco, Google's improper combining and use of personal data, and the Safari Hacking episode)."

Read Consumer Watchdog's letter to the FTC here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrftc022513.pdf

Consumer Watchdog's letter said Google had been sending to app developers personal information about each user who purchased an app from Google, without obtaining the user's permission. The personal information sent by Google included the users' names, certain physical address information and email addresses. Neither Apple nor Microsoft had engaged in similar conduct.  Consumer Watchdog's letter warned:

"Google's conduct constitutes a most serious breach of user privacy.  Google Play apps deal with sensitive personal subjects, including health conditions and sexual activity.  By disclosing personal user information to app developers, Google enables the identification of people who downloaded apps such as:

  • "Depression App Counselor:  an app designed to help people suffering from depression to manage their symptoms.
  • "Pregnancy+:  an app for expectant parents.
  • "Heart Disease:  an app for people concerned that they are at risk of heart disorders.
  • "Utoopi:  a former app (now removed) 'used for the purposes of advertising, soliciting and recruiting sex workers.'

"Many Google app developers are young people.  Google's disclosure of personal user information to these developers makes it possible for them to further disseminate the information.  App developers can, for example, sell lists of customers to marketing services and data brokers – who will, in turn, sell the information to others."

Consumer Watchdog's letter noted that the group had gone to court to block the FTC's $22.5 million settlement with Google in the "Safari Hacking episode" because it "was inadequate to deter future Google violations of the Buzz Order because the settlement lacked a court injunction proscribing future violations, contained an express denial of liability by Google, and imposed a manifestly inadequate civil penalty."

Consumer Watchdog said now that Google has once again breached the Buzz Consent Order, the FTC must use new tactics.

"The strategy of initiating enforcement procedures by proposing a settlement followed by secret negotiations and a toothless decree has brought the Commission little beyond public condemnation.  And consumers have not been protected adequately by the Commission's enforcement actions," the letter said.  "We suggest, this time around, that the Commission begin its enforcement procedure by assigning a team of trial litigators – people who can actually conduct a trial – to the latest Google transgression and that these lawyers actually bring suit in federal court against Google for the latest violation of the Buzz Order.  The complaint should seek injunctive relief sufficient to enforce compliance to the Buzz Order through contempt actions, as well as an appropriate civil penalty – which, as we explain below, will run into the billions of dollars."

The law provides a penalty of $16,000 per violation.  Millions of apps have been purchased and downloaded.  "Calculating the amount of the penalty is a simple matter of multiplication.  The number is enormous (in the billions of dollars), and only a penalty of that magnitude will deter Google from future violation of the Buzz Order," Consumer Watchdog's letter said.

The letter recapped Google's privacy violations over the last three years including the Wi-Spy scandal, the Buzz fiasco, Google's improper combining data across services without consent and the Safari Hacking episode.  The letter spelled out how the FTC's actions and tactics have proved inadequate in an attempt to thwart Google's abuses against privacy.

Gary Reback, an attorney with Carr & Ferrel, in Menlo Park, CA., assisted Consumer Watchdog in preparing its formal complaint to the FTC.

Read Consumer Watchdog's letter to the FTC here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrftc022513.pdf

Visit our website at www.consumerwatchdog.org

SOURCE Consumer Watchdog

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
SYS-CON Events announced today Object Management Group® has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...