IDG News Service - Several major U.S. Internet companies, including Google and Facebook, need to "step up" and better protect consumer privacy or face tougher penalties from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, a commissioner said Wednesday.
Commissioner Pamela Jones Harbour, who is leaving the FTC next month, ripped into Google for the launch of its Buzz social-networking tool in February, and she complained that many other Internet firms, including Facebook and Microsoft, aren't encrypting the consumer data that lives in their clouds.
Wednesday's forum was the third about consumer privacy that the FTC has hosted since December. The agency wants to shape the debate about what are appropriate consumer privacy protections, but it will also take action against companies it believes not lived up to the privacy promises, Harbour said.
"I realize that companies continue to take a testing-the-water approach to privacy because no regulatory agency has sent a clear message that this behavior is unacceptable," she said. "I would like to see the commission take the position of intolerance toward companies that push the privacy envelop, then backtrack and modify their offerings after facing consumer and regulator backlash."
Harbour targeted Google in particular for criticism, saying its launch of Buzz in February constituted "irresponsible conduct." In the original public version of Buzz, the program compiled a list of the Gmail contacts the users most frequently e-mailed or chatted with and automatically started following those people. Those lists were made public, giving strangers access to the contacts of Buzz users.
There was an immediate outcry from Gmail users, and Google made changes to Buzz within a couple of days. But Harbour said Google seems not to have learned from similar privacy controversies with past product launches, including the Google Talk instant-messaging service.
Google users have high expectations of the company, Harbour said. "Google consistently tells the public to 'just trust us,'" she said. "But based on my observations, I do not believe consumer privacy played any significant role in the release of Buzz."
A reasonable consumer would conclude that the launch of Buzz was a "material change" their relationship with Google's Gmail, she said. "When users created Gmail accounts, they signed up for e-mail services," she said. "Their expectations did not include social networking."
- NSA defends collecting data from U.S. residents not suspected of terrorist activities
- Groups fear bill would allow free flow of data between private sector and NSA
- Google's move into home automation means even less privacy
- Bill to require warrant for email searches gains ground in House
- Coming soon to a fridge near you -- targeted ads
- Snowden leaks prompt tech firms to tout privacy, transparency policies
- License reader lawsuit can be heard, appeals court rules
- Is EU's 'right to be forgotten' really the 'right to edit the truth'?
- Tails 1.0: A bootable Linux distro that protects your privacy
- Privacy jitters derail controversial K-12 big data initiative
This pilot fish is a contractor at a military base, working on some very cool fire-control systems for tanks. But when he spots something obviously wrong during a live-fire test, he can't get the firing-range commander's attention.
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Reduce federal infrastructure risk with compliance management and situational awareness
- IBM continuous monitoring and management solutions deliver real-time situational awareness to help federal agencies understand vulnerabilities, and protect the infrastructure.
- Comprehensive Advanced Threat Defense
- The hot topic in the information security industry these days is "Advanced Threat Defense" (ATD). This paper describes a comprehensive, network-based approach to...
- Advanced Threat Defense: A Comprehensive Approach
- In this interview, Peter George, president, General Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions, explains why we need more than anti-malware, and what constitutes a comprehensive...
- Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms
- Forrester states that businesses today struggle to understand and use the tools necessary to create and manage unified, multichannel digital customer experiences across...
- The Growing Demand for Rich Media
- This white paper discusses how IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition can automate rich media workflows, from collaborating with creative agencies and... All Government IT White Papers
- On-demand webinar - 7 Keys to Service Catalog Implementation Success Watch this webinar to learn 7 crucial keys to make your service catalog a success!
- Transform Your IT Service Management Watch this webinar, to learn how EasyVista can increase IT productivity & efficiency and deliver streamlined & integrated IT Service & Asset Mgmt.
- IBM FlashSystem V840: Leveraging Software-Defined Flash to Drive Your Business With end-to-end, tightly integrated functionality and super-fast flash technology, products like IBM FlashSystem V840 Enterprise Performance Solution empower businesses to leverage the efficiency...
- Leveraging Flash Storage to Accelerate Oracle Real Application Clusters Join this webinar to understand the latest solid-state storage trends, the specific applications driving solid-state storage deployments and the benefits of deploying the...
- Top 4 Digital Signage Fails Join RMG Networks for a look at four of the most common reasons digital signage fails in corporate businesses. Learn about strategies to...
- All Government IT Webcasts