Entries in Internet Privacy (5)


Google Ordered to Pay Record $22.5 Million for Violating Privacy

KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Google to pay $22.5 million for violating user privacy on its Apple's Safari browser. It's the biggest FTC fine ever issued for a company violation.

The federal agency found that Google had been tracking "cookies" on Google sites for Apple Safari users. It was also sending targeted ads to those users, which violated another settlement between the FTC and the search-engine giant.

Google claimed that a tweak in Apple's browser caused an unintentional violation, but the FTC was not swayed by such an argument.

"A company like Google, which is a steward of information for hundreds of millions of people has to do better," David Vladeck, the FTC director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, told reporters on a conference call following the announcement.

The potential privacy violation was first detected by Jonathan Mayer, a Standford University graduate student, who realized that Google was still tracking his cookies, even though he had tried to block it.

"This seems to be the kind of thing the company shouldn't be doing," Mayer told ABC News in February.

As a result of this and other violations, a "Do Not Track," or DNT, setting had been added to various browsers, including Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Apple's Safari. Still, with this particular violation, the FTC charged that during 2011 and 2012, Google had been tracking Safari users -- on Macs, iPhones and iPads -- who had opted out of such tracking, as a result of default settings in the browser. Google has not admitted to violating the law.

"The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law. This consent order is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant that the law has been violated," the FTC said in a news release.

A Google spokesperson held to that as well. "We set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users. The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy," the spokesperson told ABC News. "We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Survey: Many Don't Understand Facebook's, Google's Privacy Policies

LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Image(NEW YORK) -- Have you ever read the privacy policies of Facebook and Google?  Did you understand what you were reading?  Well, it turns out many people don't.

A new survey by Siegel+Gale, a strategic branding firm, shows many people have very little understanding of the privacy policies and find them to be even more confusing than credit card agreements and government notices.

On a scale of 0 to 100, with a score of 80 indicating good comprehension, respondents who read Facebook’s and Google’s privacy policies scored just 39 and 36, respectively.

In comparison, 70 percent of respondents in similar studies correctly answered comprehension questions about government notices, and 68 percent of respondents gave the right answers to questions about credit card agreements.

Additional findings from the Siegel+Gale survey:

-- After reading Google's privacy policy, 47 percent of respondents said they felt less comfortable with how the company collects and stores information about their activities.  Just 33 percent of Facebook users said they felt comfortable after reading that company's policy.

-- After understanding the policies, 36 percent of Facebook respondents and 37 percent of Google respondents said they would change their online behavior.

-- Just 20 percent of respondents correctly knew how to block outside applications and websites from accessing their information on Facebook.

-- More than half of Google users involved in the survey were not aware that the company’s privacy policy also applies to their use of Google Maps, Google Talk, Blogger and YouTube.

-- Only 38 percent of respondents understood that Google connects search activities to a user’s IP address whether or not they sign into a Google account.

The Siegel+Gale survey involved more than 400 respondents.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Survey: Most Worry Online Companies Exploit Their Privacy

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- The worry that personal information is freely sold or shared by companies without permission can give computer users pause in going online.

Consumer Reports says in a new survey that 71 percent of Americans feel their online privacy is being exploited in some fashion, while just over half believe companies needlessly hold onto their information even when these business have no use for it.

Perhaps we have no one to blame but ourselves based on Consumer Reports’ finding that a mere two out of 10 respondents say they “sometimes” or “always” read online privacy policies.  In fact, just five percent always take the time to do it.

Over 50 percent admit they never bother to read the fine print, with 42 percent complaining that the privacy policies are just too long to plow through.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Google Changes Raising Privacy Concerns

JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images(MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.) -- In just over a month, Google will roll out sweeping new changes to its privacy polices and terms of service that will link user data across its e-mail, video and social-networking services -- a move that has some privacy watchdogs worried.

Starting on March 1, when people sign up for Google, they'll be signing up for and agreeing to all of its products -- Gmail, YouTube, Google+, etc. -- which will all be covered under one new privacy policy.

"Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you've provided from one service with information from other services.  In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience," Google explained in a blog entry Tuesday.

The changes will also allow the online search engine to follow users' activities across of its platforms.  Google says the adjustments will enable it to improve the services it provides.

Alan Simpson, the vice president of the group Policy for Common Sense Media, isn't a fan of the move and thinks users should have the ability to opt out.

"It's tracking across a lot of different platforms and combining a lot of different things that we do.  It's a challenging area because its new technology and its hard to follow how we're being tracked," Simpson said.

He added, "These companies can and should do a better job of enabling us as consumers, and especially parents of kids to protect their privacy and their personal information.  And to make the choices they see fit."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Facebook Close to Settlement on Privacy Issues

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Facebook about face. 

The Wall Street Journal reports Facebook is close to a settlement with the U.S. government over charges it misled users about what happens to their personal information. 

The case raises fresh questions about internet privacy, and how much social networking firms can observe people’s behavior online, and profit from the personal information they collect.

The settlement would require Facebook to get users' consent before sharing any data in a way that is different from how the user originally agreed the data could be used.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio