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."
- Texas drone bill sparks a battle
- How to keep the feds from snooping on your cloud data
- Google allowing Android app vendors to illegally collect user data, lawsuit alleges
- State social media privacy laws a mixed bag for businesses
- First California lawsuit over mobile privacy issues crashes
- Bill would put mobile app vendors on the hook for privacy
- Florida poised to become first state with anti-drone law
- White House signals it won't support CISPA in present form
- Microsoft takes new 'Scroogled' shot at Google
- Judge awards class action status in privacy lawsuit vs. comScore
- Google I/O 2013's Coolest Products and Services
- 10 Star Trek Technologies That are Almost Here
- 19 Generations of Computer Programmers
- 25 Must-Have Technologies for SMBs
- A walking tour: 33 questions to ask about your company's security
- 15 social media scams
- The 7 elements of a successful security awareness program
- 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.
- Federal IT Innovation Caught in a Catch-22
- Fed resources shoring up old infrastructure, holding back new technologies.
- IDC Security Infographic
- From the Era Before security to this current era of empowerment this infographic from Blue coat provides a timeline navigates the rise of...
- Key Drivers: Why CIOs Believe Empowered Users Set the Agenda for Enterprise Security
- Several years ago, a transformation in IT began to take place; a transformation from an IT-centric view of technology to a business-centric view...
- Security Empowers Business
- Every magazine article, presentation or blog about the topic seems to start the same way: trying to scare the living daylights out of...
- Business Assureance Technology Infographic
- IT Leaders See security as barrier to enabling employees. However with new Business assurance technology you are able to give Continuity, Agility, and... All Government IT White Papers
- Becoming An Analytics Driven Organization
- Join us on Tuesday, June 18, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT and learn how your agency can create an analytics culture that will enable...
- 3 Reasons Why Sepaton is the World's Fastest Backup Solution
- Leading analyst, Storage Switzerland learns how Sepaton backs up and deduplicates massive data volumes while maintaining the industry's fastest performance - all in...
- Enterprise File Sharing: All You Need to Know
- Security. Scalability. Control. These are just some of the many benefits of enterprise cloud file-sharing that you'll discover in this KnowledgeVault, packed with...
- Bridging HTTP and FTP with FileXpress Internet Server
- What if you could take an FTP server on your internal network, and allow external users (partners or customers) to securely access it...
- MFT and FileXpress - An Overview
- Business users and applications exchange files on a regular basis. File transfer is a core part of the flow of business activity. All Government IT Webcasts