IT SEEMS THAT no one really leaves the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as a former employee has filed a complaint with the agency against Google, less than a month after leaving.
The complaint was filed on 6 September by Christopher Soghoian, a former technologist at the FTC's division of privacy and identity protection. Soghoian has decided to take on Google after leaving the agency that should have done it anyway by issuing a complaint alleging that the search engine and advertising outfit shares data with third parties.
Soghoian doesn't mince words, asking the FTC to "compel Google to take proactive steps to protect the privacy of individual users' search terms". His complaint also includes the aforementioned allegations of personal information being shared with third parties.
What was really surprising was Google's response to the Wall Street Journal, admitting that the passing of search query data to third parties "is a standard practice across all search engines". However the firm added that "Google does not pass any personal information about the source of the query to the destination website".
Soghoian's complaint revolves around the referrer header, which could in theory have users' names, should they search for themselves. Trying to calm the onset of mass hysteria, Soghoian said, "I'm not arguing that every time you click on a link on Google search results you're at risk of identity theft or that the person running the site knows who you are." Rather he said that the claims made by Google regarding protection of user data were not being met.
The reason why Soghoian had to quit the FTC in order to pursue his complaint against Google was due to a decision by the FTC's Office of General Counsel. Apparently it determined that Soghoian's previous efforts at the agency "were sufficiently critical of Google to create the possibility of a perception of bias against the company".
So, if Apple wants to avoid any problems with the FTC, it might want to lobby hard for the Commission to hire Nick Farrell. We understand that he has fairly strong views about the fruit themed toymaker.
In the meantime, the FTC has to judge whether its former employee's complaint is strong enough to warrant a full-blown investigation of Google. µ
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