FTC investigation demanded over Google Safari tracking

Google's alleged bypassing of Safari privacy settings looks likely to come under FTC investigation, after three US Congressmen contacted the Commission to see whether the search giant has violated its consent agreement. Republican Representatives Cliff Stearns of Florida and Joe Barton of Texas, and Democrat Edward Markey of Massachusetts, penned a letter expressing their concerns to the Federal Trade Commission on Friday, citing Google's recent – and contentious – privacy policy changes and describing the claims that the company tricked Safari into allowing users to be tracked as "a major concern."

"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 Congressmen wrote to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. That consent agreement came in the aftermath of the Google Buzz debacle, where the company had been found to use deceptive tactics and even contradict its own privacy promises.

Google conceded to independent privacy audits for the next twenty years, as well as promising never to misrepresent its privacy terms. The search giant maintains that its recent changes to the privacy policy are in fact beneficial to the end-user, and simply reduce the bulk of repetition from having a separate policy for every individual product. Nonetheless, privacy advocates are concerned that the amalgamated policy gives Google more freedom to combine user data individuals share on each product.

The Safari privacy workaround had already prompted independent calls for Google to be held to account, and lawmaker attention is only likely to make the FTC more interested in hearing what the company has to say. The FTC is expected to respond to the Privacy Caucus by early March, and if Google is investigated and found to have violated its consent agreement, it could face significant fines.

[via PC World]