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California interest group urges actions against Google's privacy violations

California interest group urges actions against Google's privacy violations

A U.S. public interest group Monday called for federal and state actions against Google's most recent privacy violations.
Consumer Watchdog, a Santa Monica-based public interest group in California, urged the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to act immediately against Google's most recent privacy violation -- sharing users' personal information with apps developers.
Consumer Watchdog also asked California Attorney-General Kamala Harris to determine whether Google's privacy breach violates California law in addition to violating the so-called "Buzz Consent Order" with the FTC.
According to the group, penalties for violating a previous consent order should reach billions of dollars.
"Google has become a serial privacy abuser and the FTC must change its tactics to curb the Internet giant's abuses. Google's wanton disregard for its obligations under the law demonstrates the need for meaningful penalties -- in this case a fine in the billions of dollars," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, at a news conference Monday.
In a seven-page formal letter of complaint to Charles A. Harwood, the FTC's acting director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Simpson noted that Google has violated the Buzz Order in a "most substantive and egregious" manner, by "giving personal and closely held information from tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Android users to independent and unrestrained application developers."
He said Google has been sending to application developers personal information about each user who purchased an app from Google, without obtaining the user's permission.
The personal information sent by Google included the users' names, certain physical address information and email addresses. Neither Apple nor Microsoft has engaged in similar conduct, according to Consumer Watchdog.
Google's conduct constitutes a most serious breach of user privacy. Google Play apps deal with sensitive personal subjects, including health conditions and sexual activity. By disclosing personal user information to app developers, Google enables the identification of people who downloaded some applications, the letter said.
Now that Google has once again breached the Buzz Consent Order, the watchdog said, the FTC must use new tactics.
The law imposes a penalty of 16,000 U.S. dollars per violation. "Calculating the amount of the penalty is a simple matter of multiplication. The number is enormous (in the billions of dollars), and only a penalty of that magnitude will deter Google from future violation of the Buzz Order," the letter said.

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