Google Online Privacy Safari Snafu Angers FTC

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Federal Trade Commission Expected To Levy Huge Fine Against Google

Recently, a Stanford student, Jonathan Mayer, uncovered a snafu in the way Google handles cookies in Safari – and the disclosure could cost the search engine corporation a pretty penny. You see, Google told Safari users they were protected and didn’t need to opt-out of Google’s cookies. What Google forgot to mention, however, is a little-known loophole used to track users’ data and web surfing habits.

How The Cookie Loophole Bypasses Online Privacy Protections

Google Adwords operates a service called Double Click. In theory, only users who click on the advertisement and interact with it can be tracked by cookies. To get around this requirement, Double Click sent out invisible forms that made Safari believe the user was interacting with the ad. As a result, the user’s computer allowed cookies to track their data. When users asked if they could opt out, Google advised it wasn’t necessary since Safari protected against any advertisement misuse.

Will Google Have To Pay Up For Safari Online Privacy Breach

Always eager to levy fines, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to force Google to cough up a few million as punishment for the security breach.

Since Mayer noticed, and pointed out, that the cookies placed in his browser were specifically created to avoid the protections Safari had in place, the FTC will most likely use this as an example-making incident.

In other words, the commission has grown a reputation for being, as an anonymous source in Bloomberg news called it, “all bark and no bite” – and a substantial fine would signal that the FTC does, actually, mean business when it comes to online consumer privacy and protection.

The Future of Online Privacy In The United States

Google said that none of the cookies were intended to collect any personal information about the consumer. After careful review, the Federal Trade Commission is now faced with a difficult decision. If they choose to find the company guilty, Google could be forced to pay fines that total more than $10 million.

In the past, the FTC has tried a more diplomatic approach to e-privacy compliance. However, online privacy has become a popular topic; citizens are starting to voice their displeasure with the lack of online privacy laws; so in response, the FTC has vowed to start getting serious about online consumer privacy.

And so, the online privacy battle rages on. The question still remains, though, if we will ever see a universal online privacy policy passed in the United States.

For the most part, successful Internet-based companies don’t want to see a universal privacy policy, since not having one means more opportunity for high-revenue, targeted marketing. The average Jane or John, however, isn’t too pleased with the lack of online privacy. Yet, according to a report last year in USA Today, John and Jane also want online services to remain free. In other words, it could be quite a while before there’s a resolution to the complex problem of online privacy.

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