Click here to close now.


API Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Jason Bloomberg, Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Carmen Gonzalez

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:

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:

Visit our website at

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
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them to design hosted applications.
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment process from development to production scenarios using Docker containers.
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn 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).
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and technology requirements that will drive the Internet of Things from hype to reality.
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessions, I wanted to share some of my observations on emerging trends. As cyber security serves as a fou...
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now all corporate assets – people, objects, and spaces – can share information about themselves and thei...
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.