Consumer Watchdog: Google Profits From Ill-Gotten Data
A consumer group looking to overturn a $22.5 million Federal Trade Commission fine against Google to settle allegations of violating the terms of a 2011 consent decree is now arguing that Google continues to benefit from data it collected during the violation.
An FTC complaint in August alleged that Google improperly bypassed privacy protections on Apple's Safari browser and placed tracking cookies on users' computers. Google agreed to settle the case, but didn't admit wrongdoing. FTC Commissioner Thomas Rosch dissented from the settlement, arguing that Google should admit wrongdoing and that the fine was small relative to Google's revenues.
Consumer Watchdog, a persistent critic of Google, argued just that in its bid to have the settlement tossed out. And in a reply memorandum filed on Tuesday in federal court in California, they're now saying that the settlement "permits Google to continue to profit from its wrongdoing indefinitely." According to the filing, though Google set tracking cookies it placed with the browsers of Safari users to expire, the data generated by those cookies while they were active still reside with Google, and can still be used to serve advertising to those same users.
The brief states that the FTC "is either unaware of this result or has simply neglected to mention it to the Court, the press and the public."
Google didn't comment specifically for this story. When the case was initially filed, a Google spokesperson said the company was "confident that there is no basis for this challenge." In a court filing from late September, Google said the FTC settlement was "fair, reasonable and adequate," and that as a matter of law, Consumer Watchdog doesn't have any business seeking a judicial review of the deal. The Justice Department filed a brief in the case backing up the FTC, making many of the same arguments.
It's now up to U.S. District Judge Susan Illston, who can opt to schedule arguments in the case, dismiss it entirely, or throw out the settlement.