Google to be investigated in US over Safari cookies

20 Feb 2012

Should you be afraid of Google and how it tracks user behaviour on Safari? Following last week’s report of privacy violations of Safari users by Google, three lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives have called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate whether the internet giant is violating a consent agreement it reached with the FTC last year.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Google and others used a special code that tricked Apple’s Safari browser into letting them monitor user behaviour.

Spurred on from this, Republican representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida, Joe Barton of Texas, and Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts penned a letter to the FTC on Friday, where they drew upon how Google’s alleged circumvention of do-not-track controls on Apple’s Safari browser could have a vast impact because Safari is a major web browser used by millions of people in the US.

“As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are interested in any actions that FTC has taken or plans to take to investigate whether Google has violated the terms of its consent agreement,” the trio said in the letter.

Back in October 2011, the consent order with the FTC covered how Google was barred from making misrepresentations regarding its privacy policies.

The consent also required Google to implement a thorough privacy programme, which would include retaining an independent third-party professional to assess its privacy controls every two years, the FTC indicated at the time.

Should Google be found to have violated its FTC 2011 agreement, it could lead to large fines for the company.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic