Careful Communication and Proper Use of Computers

EU Regulator Awaits Google Concessions on Charges of Market Abuse

Google has not addressed concerns from EU regulators regarding the company’s alleged abuse of its market dominance. Joaquin Almunia, EU Competition Commissioner, reached out to Google three weeks ago with a chance to settle the EU’s 18-month probe but the company has yet to respond. If Google does not formally offer concessions, it could face formal charges and face a fine that could be as high as ten percent of the company’s global turnover. Almunia believes the investigation indicates Google may have promoted its own search services over those of rivals and that the company’s advertising deals with websites could have blocked its competition and restricted advertisers from moving their campaigns to other search engines. In a statement released shortly after the commissioner’s comments, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said, “We disagree that we are in violation, until they are more precise on what area of the law we are in violation of. Give us the precise data, the precise problem.” The EU commission launched the investigation in November 2010 after Google’s rivals accused the company of manipulating search results to promote their own services over others. To date the commission has received 16 complaints.

New York Times: Google Keeps EU Regulator Waiting on Concessions (7 June 2012)
(Source: Reuters)

Do Not Track Default Sparks Criticism

OnlineMediaDaily (OMD) reports that Microsoft is receiving criticism for its decision “to turn on a do-not-track header by default in its newest browser”. Advertising industry representatives have reportedly criticised the software giant for taking a position contrary to self-regulatory groups in the software industry. According to OMD, the “browser-based do-not-track header sends a request to Web sites” which asks them not to track use and send users ads based on their online activity. The banner reportedly doesn’t block cookies or prevent tracking, but rather leaves it “up to ad networks to decide whether to respect the header”. Criticism from the industry has centred around the failure of the approach to allow users a choice as to whether they are or are not tracked by companies, reports OMD.

OnlineMediaDaily: DAA: Ad Industry Might Ignore IE10 Do-Not-Track Requests (1 June 2012)
(Source: OMD)

Facebook Settles Case Involving User-referred Ads

Reuters reports that Facebook has arrived at a settlement with five Facebook members who sued the social networking site in 2011 over its “Sponsored Stories” section, which is “an ad that appears on a member’s Facebook page, and generally consists of another friend’s name, profile picture and an assertion that the person ‘likes’ the advertiser”. The plaintiffs reportedly claimed that the “Sponsored Stories” section “violates their right to publicity under California law”. According to Reuters, “the value of a ‘Sponsored Story’ advertisement is at least twice and up to three times the value of a standard ad without a friend endorsement” and US District Judge Lucy Koh “said the plaintiffs had articulated a coherent theory of how they were economically injured by the use of their names, photographs and likenesses”. The terms of the settlement have not been made publicly available, reports Reuters.

Reuters: Facebook settles lawsuit over “Sponsored Stories” (22 May 2012)
(Source: Reuters)

Twitter First Social Media Site to Allow Users to Opt Out of Tracking

In a social media first, Twitter has announced that it will implement a “do not track” feature on its website for users who wish not to be tracked online. Ticking the “do not track” box in a users’ Web browser settings will reportedly mean that “Twitter will then stop receiving page-visit information as they surf the Internet”. However, enabling the “do not track” settings does not automatically stop a web users’ activities from being tracked as “it’s up to online tracking companies to [honour] the preferences”, reports the WSJ. It is reportedly unclear what data will be covered by the “do not track” feature “and whether ad companies will have to completely stop collecting information or can simply stop using that information to serve people ads”.

WSJ: Twitter Joins ‘Do Not Track’ Ranks (17 May 2012)Related news item:
CNN: Twitter joins ‘Do Not Track,’ gives users privacy option (18 May 2012)
(Source: WSJ; CNN)

US Social Networking Service Settles FTC Charges

The United States (US) Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced that Myspace has agreed to reach a settlement with the FTC regarding allegations of misusing users’ personal information for advertising purposes. According to the FTC, “Myspace’s privacy policy promised it would not share users’ personally identifiable information, or use such information in a way that was inconsistent with the purpose for which it was submitted, without first giving notice to users and receiving their permission to do so”, yet provided advertisers with the Friend ID, a persistent unique identifier, “of users who were viewing particular pages on the site”. Advertisers were able to use the Friend ID “to locate a user’s Myspace profile to obtain personal information publicly available on the profile and, in most instances, the user’s full name” and even acquire details of the individual’s broader web-browsing activity. The proposed settlement would prevent Myspace from making such misrepresentations to users and would also require it to put in place “a comprehensive privacy program designed to protect consumers’ information”.

FTC’s media release (8 May 2012)
(Source: FTC)