FTC Stories December 2, 2015

GOOG: 762.38

-4.66

Privacy campaigners the Electronic Frontier Foundation have filed a formal complaint with the FTC, claiming that Google “deceptively tracks students’ Internet browsing.” They say that Google is in breach of the Student Privacy Pledge the search giant signed back in January. Once Google signed, the terms became legally binding on the company.

The EFF says that one issue is with Chrome Sync, a feature designed to enable users to work with the same bookmarks, logins and other data across devices. Chrome Sync is currently switched on by default on Chromebooks sold to schools, and the EFF says that Google collects this data and uses it for other purposes …  expand full story

FTC Stories July 29, 2015

AT&T doesn’t want to be throttled for throttling customers

It seems AT&T thinks throttling the data speeds of customers without telling them about it isn’t such a big deal. The Federal Trade Commission sued AT&T back in 2014 for “deceptive and unfair data throttling” after the company imposed caps on unlimited data contracts, beyond which it reduced their data speeds by almost 90%. The Federal Communications Commission joined the party last month, fining AT&T $100 million – and The Hill reports that the carrier now wants that fine reduced to just $16,000.

The Commission’s findings that consumers and competition were harmed are devoid of factual support and wholly implausible,” the company wrote in its filing. “Its ‘moderate’ forfeiture penalty of $100 million is plucked out of thin air, and the injunctive sanctions it proposes are beyond the Commission’s authority.”

The FTC had stated that it could legally have imposed fines of $16,000 per affected consumer, but that would have resulted in an “astronomic” fine, so chose to limit the total penalty to one large enough to deter future violations. AT&T had originally claimed that it was doing nothing wrong, but Ars Technica notes that the company amended its policy in May so that throttling was applied only when the network was congested.

AT&T has not offered unlimited data plans to new customers for some years, but has a small-ish group of customers who remain on grandfathered plans which remain valid for as long as the customer retains the plan.

Photo: Re/code

FTC Stories April 7, 2015

The YouTube Kids app, launched in February to provide access to family-friendly videos on both Android and iOS, has been accused by around a dozen consumer groups of being “deceptive to children” in the way it mixes ads into programming. The NY Times reports that a formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission is expected to be filed today.

[The complaint] argues, in essence, that YouTube is using advertising tactics like “host selling” – having cartoon characters sell products inside their show – that would be illegal if they were on television instead of online.

The groups argue that the app should be held to the same standards that apply to TV shows …  expand full story

Everyone can use an Echo Dot: Just $50!

FTC Stories April 3, 2015

Reuters reports that the plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit against Google have finally withdrawn their case. The case, which was brought against Google nearly a year ago, accused the company of being anticompetitive with several of its Search and Android practices.

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FTC Stories April 1, 2015

File photo shows people walking by a YouTube sign at the new Google office in Toronto

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the European Commission is preparing to file antitrust charges against Google. The charges come after a five-year long investigation that’s stalled three times and caused strong political divides in Europe.

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FTC Stories March 31, 2015

Chair of Senate antitrust panel looking into conversations between Google and FTC

Senator Mike Lee, who chairs the Senate’s antitrust panel, will conduct a “preliminary inquiry” into whether conversations Google had with FTC investigators influenced the commission’s decision to clear the company of anti-competitive behavior, reports the WSJ.

The senator could later expand his inquiry to include conversations people in the White House had with the FTC and Google, people in his office said.

The FTC last week denied that its decision had been “a close call” following leaked documents suggesting that it had been. The documents also provided some fascinating insights into Google’s business model.

Google declined to comment on this latest development, but has previously said that its meetings in the White House were not related to the FTC investigation.

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