If you are in trouble on Internet Privacy – Pretend to be a leader

Most Internet consumers know when they visit a website, it may deposit a “cookie” on their computer – to beneficially adjust how they are treated on return visits.  The cookie may avoid the visitor needing to sign in again, or may avoid presenting content the visitor has already seen.  

But some cookie depositors have more noxious plans for visitor information.  Google dominates – but Vibrant Media, Media Innovation Group, and PointRoll use similar cookie-based techniques to track Internet users.  The quality of data they have sets the price they can charge for advert placement.  Most consumers object to this data collection and adjust their browser privacy settings to the strongest level consistent with being allowed to use their favorite sites.  Despite consumer wishes, there is evidently so much money to be made that these consumer trackers just plough ahead.

In 2009, Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt was appointed by President Obama to his Science and Technology Advisory Council so he could advise on formulating “policy in the many areas where understanding of science, technology, and innovation is key to strengthening our economy and forming policy that works for the American people.”  So how is Schmidt’s advisory relationship working for the American people?

  • In 2011, Google settled with the FTC and agreed to “not misrepresent” its privacy practices to consumers – subject to a $16,000 fine per instance per day. 
  • In January 2012 Google followed Microsoft’s lead by announcing its next version of Chrome would offer a stronger “opt-out” stance.  The move was seen as a minor improvement. 
  • On February 17, Google’s subversion of user privacy settings on Apple’s Safari and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was documented by WSJ.  Google bypassed the user’s settings so it could track users.  Google said the engineering it installed to bypass rivals’ browser privacy settings was “accidental.”  Following Google’s maltreatment of Internet users, the WSJ polled readers on Google’s actions.  As of Feb 23rd, found 65% were “very upset”, 21% “not happy” and 14% “not concerned.”  Many commenters admitted they loathe class action suits, but would gladly join one in this instance.
  • On February 22, dozens of state Attorneys General (AGs) wrote Google to criticize its plan to meld tracking data that it harvested from its many products, i.e. blend user’s Google search, Gmail, and YouTube uses to sharpen its advert placements.  The AGs saw this plan as harmful to consumers. 
  • On February 23rd, as part of the Digital Advertising Alliance Google agreed to adopt the White House’s Privacy Bill of Rights, which includes some user control over what data can be collected and how it can be used. 

This looks suspiciously like a discredited politician jumping into the front of the parade.  Will “connections” and this gambit duck the $16,000/day/instance fine?

 

Alan Daley is a retired businessman living in Colorado.  He follows public policy from the consumer’s perspective.

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Comments

  1. The_Mick says

    While reading this article about Google tracking me, the Firefox Addon “DoNotTrackPlus” tells me it is blocking one company that this site, theamericancomsumer.org, is allowing to track me! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    DEAR THE MICK,
    JUST SO YOU KNOW, WE HAVE NEVER PLACED A COOKIE, OR COLLECTED AND TRACKED INFORMATION. WE ONLY ADD AN EXTRA STEP FOR COMMENTERS, IN ORDER TO KEEP SPAM OFF OUR WEBSITE. WE ALSO DO NOT HAVE ADS OR POP-UPS … WE NEVER DID. SO, I GUESS YOU MADE AN HONEST MISTAKE.

  2. says

    Very informative article. How can I get more information or articles sent to my email. Lately, after just reading a normal article on the new movie “Lucky” about horses on the Yahoo webpage, all the sudden something popped up – an alert identifying some advertisement was inappropriate. They also informed me due to the articles I read they put in cookies that geared articles towards
    Gender: Male Age: 25-34 Well, I didn’t even know they could do this. I am not tech savy too say the least. I thought privacy had to do with other people getting onto my computer. I am a Female and 55 years old. However, I always consider myself around 29yrs. in terms of youthful outlook and I work with gangs, kids, teenagers, and frequently in jails and prisons. I am getting off of Facebook – too accessible for Big Brother now. Should I now just quit the internet too??
    My brother idolizes Steve Jobs. I am not so sure he did us any great favors in the long run. Thanks.

  3. says

    ALLOWING GOOGLE, WHO HAS ALREADY SHOWN IT’S DISDANE FOR THE IDEA OF PRIVACY FOR CITIZENS, TO SUPPOSEDLY COMPLY WITH A WHITE HOUSE CONSUMER PRIVACY BILL OF RIGHTS, IS LIKE ALLOWING THE FOX TO GUARD THE HENHOUSE FROM THE INSIDE. THE WHITE HOUSE HAS ALREADY SHOWN IT’S PROPENSITY FOR THE MOST GUARDED AND SECRETIVE ADMINISTRATION IN THE HISTORY OF AMERICA, AND IT’S DESIRE TO TAKE CONTROL OF THE INTERNET, THE FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS OF EVERY CITIZEN, AND THE CONTROL OF HEALTH CARE IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICE BERG!
    A GOOGLE AND WHITE HOUSE CONTROL EFFORT WOULD BE EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO AMERICAN CITIZENS’ PRIVACY ON ANY FRONT!! THE AMERICAN PEOPLE SHOULD NOT TRUST EITHER ONE OF THEM!

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