A coalition of privacy and consumers groups on Thursday called on the public to keep the pressure on Google to abide by a proposed settlement that the Internet firm reached last month with the Federal Trade Commission.
“I think Google is thinking it can get away with doing the bare minimum,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said in a conference call with reporters. “We're not going to let Google off easy here.”
The draft settlement could not only shape the privacy actions of the biggest player on the Internet, the groups said, but could also impact privacy legislation being debated on Capitol Hill.
The FTC last month settled with Google over complaints that it violated consumers’ privacy with last year's rollout of its social-networking service Buzz. Google was criticized for automatically signing its Gmail users up for Buzz and using their contacts as a list of suggested Buzz friends. Google officials acknowledged mistakes but noted that they moved quickly to address concerns.
The proposed settlement requires Google to obtain users’ consent before sharing information with third parties if the company changes its products and services contrary to earlier privacy promises. In addition, Google must establish a comprehensive privacy program and comply with an independent third-party audit of its privacy practices every two years for the next two decades.
The public will have until May 2 to weigh in on the settlement before the FTC officially approves it.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which filed the original complaint with the FTC, and others praised the agreement as the most far-reaching privacy action the FTC has taken. But they want to ensure that Google fully abides by the terms, particularly the call for a comprehensive privacy program. His group set up a Web page (https://epic.org/fixgoogleprivacy/) to allow consumers to weigh in.
The groups said they would like some additions to the settlement such as limiting the amount of time Google can keep personal data, extending data privacy controls to all its products and services, and requiring Google to add a “do-not-track” tool to its Chrome Internet browser.
A do-not-track tool would allow consumers to choose whether they want to be tracked while they surf the Web. The Consumer Federation of America’s Susan Grant noted that so far Google is the only major browser provider to not include one.