Opposition to Google’s Safari privacy settlement to be heard next month

Martyn Williams
30 October, 2012
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A San Francisco court will hear arguments next month against a proposed US$22.5 million privacy settlement between Google and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, over Google’s use of cookies to track the Web movements of users running Apple’s Safari browser.

The settlement, the largest ever secured by the FTC for violating one of its orders, was announced in August but quickly drew criticism from privacy advocates. They complained the terms are too soft on Google and that the fine — a fraction of the US$38 billion Google recorded in 2011 revenue – amounts to a slap on the wrist.

While the FTC and Google came up with the settlement, it needs to be approved by a judge, which is what next month’s hearing is about. Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group that has been critical of Google’s privacy measures, will argue that the court should not sign off on the deal.

Among the group’s complaints: that the deal allows Google to deny any wrongdoing, that it won’t prevent it from doing the same thing again, and that it requires Google to destroy only the cookies and not the information gained from the tracking, said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director.

The group will be represented by Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer Gary Reback, whose work influenced the U.S. Department of Justice when it decided to sue Microsoft in the late 1990s in a landmark antitrust case.

The hearing will take place Nov. 16 at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco.

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