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Google's Misplaced Privacy Fines

A record-breaking $22.5 million fine was slapped on Google for violations. And although the company fully deserved them, they were, at the same time, misplaced.

The fine largely revolved around Safari and issues around opting out of Doubleclick ad tracking -- really the least of Google user worries. Even after you may have opted out, cookies still tracked you, despite the fact that Safari was designed to block these cookies in the first place.

The fines also related to Google Buzz (now Google+). One problem with Buzz was that as a Gmail user, all the stuff you did was shared with all your Gmail contacts. Oops.

Gmail later was found guilty of reading your e-mail and sending out ads depending on what you wrote or received. Handy and invasive.

The $22-plus million is a pittance, as Google made nearly $40 billion last year (almost all of this from ads, despite that fact that, to my knowledge, Google doesn't have a single journalist, author or real content creator on staff). It creates virtually no content, yet makes more from content than the world's largest media company News Corp. (which only brought in $33 billion and has over 50,000 employees).

The fine was misplaced because Google does far worse privacy damage when Streetview sniffs out our Mac addresses.

Google really doesn't care and, in fact, the fine wasn't for privacy violations but for contempt due to how the company acted after it was found to violate privacy.

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/15/2012 at 1:19 PM

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Reader Comments:

Tue, Aug 21, 2012 DonT Seattle

I wonder if there is a difference between the free service and paid accounts? If the service is free, are you really a consumer? And I have noticed that in the case of Google, Facebook, and especially Microsoft people complain about privacy, but somehow feel entitled as if they paid for something. It's free so those companies can monetize your poriential buying habits and interests. Don't like, don't use it.

Fri, Aug 17, 2012 Tim National Capital Region

Maybe in addition to the fine it would be appropriate to send all board members to jail until Google can prove they have taken corrective actions to clean up this violation and taken preventative actions to ensure it does not happen again. Board members should then be made to swear these actions will work and remain in force as corporate policy. That way if if it happens again they can be prosecuted for perjury. Any new members to the board should be required to sign notarized statements affirming they will also enforce these policies or they take personal liability for any fines. I think if the individual board members had more at stake they would be more protective customer rights.

Wed, Aug 15, 2012 Russell

Another reason the Supreme Court was incompetent when ruling corporations had equal rights as actual human beings. A human being would have gone to prison for such crimes. Who actually pays - the consumer, because corporations don't have money, they have revenue from the rest of us. So they just jack up the prices and/or cut jobs and wages. US jurisprudence is a joke to them!

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