Feeds

Privacy activists attempt block of Google's purchase of DoubleClick

Too much power

High performance access to file storage

Privacy groups have lodged a complaint (pdf) with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over Google's proposed acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick. The merger will give the combined company unprecedented power, they argue.

Three groups have asked the FTC to halt the deal until it receives assurances about privacy protection. Google said the complaint fails to identify any activity undertaken by it that falls short of accepted privacy standards.

The Electronic Privacy Information Centre, the Centre for Digital Democracy and the US Public Interest Research Group have filed the complaint, alleging that the concentration of information about users that would be controlled by the combined company could lead to dangerous privacy breaches.

"Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will give one company access to more information about the internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world," said the complaint. "Moreover, Google will operate with virtually no legal obligation to ensure the privacy, security, and accuracy of the personal data that it collects."

The complaint claims that Google violates the Federal Trade Commission Act by engaging in deceptive and unfair trade practices.

"Upon arriving at the Google homepage, a Google user is not informed of Google's data collection practices until he or she clicks through four links," says the section of the complaint which details Google's alleged deceptive trade practices. "Most users will not reach this page. In truth and in fact, Google collects user search terms in connection with his or her IP address without adequate notice to the user. Therefore, Google's representations concerning its data retention practices were, and are, deceptive practices.

"As a result of Google's failure to detail its data retention policies until four levels down within its website, its users are unaware that their activities are being monitored," says the complaint in the section alleging unfair trade practices.

"Furthermore, Google does not provide any 'opt-out' option to its users who do not want Google to store their search terms. Google's collection of information about its users without compliance with Fair Information Practices, such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines, is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers, which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers and not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition, and therefore is an unfair practice."

Google retains search terms and links them to the internet addresses of the people who made the search. This could lead to the identification of users, which the activists say runs against the expectations of users.

Google has rejected the allegations that it has broken any law in its practices. "Google believes the complaint is unsupported by the facts or the law," Google counsel Peter Fleischer told reporters. "When we have a chance to explain to the FTC why we keep this information, I think there is zero chance that the FTC will order us to delete it at the end of a session."

In Europe, companies such as Google will soon have to retain IP addresses for between six months and two years to comply with the Data Retention Directive. Member states must pass that into national law by the end of this year.

Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray
High Fidelity Pure Audio – is this what your ears have been waiting for?
Dropbox defends fantastically badly timed Condoleezza Rice appointment
'Nothing is going to change with Dr. Rice's appointment,' file sharer promises
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
Zucker punched: Google gobbles Facebook-wooed Titan Aerospace
Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon flying broadband-bot
Apple DOMINATES the Valley, rakes in more profit than Google, HP, Intel, Cisco COMBINED
Cook & Co. also pay more taxes than those four worthies PLUS eBay and Oracle
It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer
Do the right thing, earn up to 10 years in clink
France bans managers from contacting workers outside business hours
«Email? Mais non ... il est plus tard que six heures du soir!»
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.