The FTC is reviewing Google over privacy concerns... again

The FTC reviewing Google over privacy concerns... again
Google's business and customer privacy controversies often go hand in hand. The numerous services that Google provides are free, but it gets money for delivering ads to its users. And, to attract ad publishers, the search giant needs to guarantee that a business will be able to reach mostly people that are interested in their product. How does Google do that? Well, it monitors your activity online — your searches, the music that you like, the videos that you watch, the types of apps that you like, the ads you click on, and the products you are most likely to view in online stores or service providers.

But we all know this and have learned to live with the idea, hoping that when robots become sentient, Google's servers wouldn't become their SkyNet. Well, that, and there are certain government bodies and consumer organizations that monitor different companies' actions when it comes to privacy and defending the consumer's interests.

Consumer Watchdog and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse are such consumer advocate bodies and they have recently pointed the FTC's (Federal Trade Commission) attention towards a change of policies Google made back in June. The issue they have with it in particular is the fact that the new policy, which Google asked you to agree to back then, outlines that the company will now be able to merge the data that its various services collect on you — Maps, Play Music, Search, etc. — with its DoubleClick advertising service. Basically, it will be able to paint a clearer picture of who a specific person is and what their interests and routines are, then feed that information in its ad service.

Apparently, back in 2007, when Google acquired DoubleClick, the search giant promised that it wouldn't merge the data it collects on users with the advertising network. Now, it has gone back to change that practice.

“But the privacy policy changes were presented to the user, asking them to manually accept them”, we hear you say. True, and we will skip the smarmy “nobody reads these anyway” comment. However, the consumer advocates claim that Google didn't explain the changes well enough to the users, and many may have pressed “accept” without having an idea what exactly it is their phone is asking them.

The FTC said it is currently looking into the allegations. Should it find Google guilty of misleading consumers and crossing that privacy line yet again, the consumer watchdogs say that the company could be forced to forgo its ad-generated earnings from the month of June to today. Ouch.

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source: The Washington Post

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