Did the FTC Let Google Off Easy?

Thumbnail image for spy.jpgYou have likely heard Google was investigated by the FTC for privacy breaches regarding its Street View data gathering practices which collected passwords and emails in some cases. TMC’s Erin Harrison covered this news explaining the FTC dropped the case because it was satisfied with Google’s decision to improve its privacy controls but many privacy groups are not happy with this outcome. Sidney Hill from E-Commerce Times reports that the Electronic Privacy Information Center for example is still unhappy because the FTC didn’t determine if laws were broken.

Interestingly there are inferences in the latter article about Google’s close ties to the Obama administration and whether this may have helped the search giant out in this particular case. In January of last year I wrote is Eric Schmidt Protecting a Google Monopoly which also touches on whether the close allegiance between President Obama and Schmidt isn’t a cause for concern for search competitors and the public at large.

Close relationships aren’t new between business and politics – I have trouble envisioning Halliburton getting beaten up by George W. Bush for example.

Still, it seems these last few years the Obama administration – and to some degree Bush before he left office has gotten into the business of picking losers and winners in the economy – with respect to who gets bailed out, mortgage assistance, to keep their GM dealership, etc.

And as long as the government grows and continues to meddle in everyone’s affairs, it is tough for us to know for sure if the Google/FTC situation was handled fairly – without any gentle nudges from Obama or his team. Then again, with so many companies lobbying 24×7 and pouring money into Washington, it seems that if Google got off easy – it would be business as usual for our leaders – and a wise move for Google to ally itself with Obama during the campaign.

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