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Case Study of Google Serial Over-collection of Private Data for FTC Hearings

A Case Study of Alphabet-Google’s 2004-2018 Privacy Track Record of Evident Unfair and Deceptive Over-collection of Consumers’ Personal Data Exposes an Evident Gap in the FTC’s Remedial Authority to Protect Consumers

Submitted as a public comment for the FTC’s fall 2018 “Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century Hearings.” Topic #5: “The Commission’s remedial authority to deter unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters” FTC Project Number: P181201; (PDF FTC submission here)

July 30, 2018; By Scott Cleland; President, Precursor® LLC  info@precursor.com & Chairman, NetCompetition®

Conclusion

This case study of Alphabet-Google’s track record of unfair and deceptive privacy and data security practices provides a compelling body of evidence of 17 major business practice examples over a fifteen-year period that indicate the FTC evidently does not have enough remedial enforcement authority to deter Google, or other Internet platforms, from engaging in unfair and deceptive conduct in privacy and data security matters.

It is also evident from Google’s words and actions chronicled below that it legally does not believe its users have a “legitimate expectation of privacy” concerning the information they provide to Google.

New U.S. Privacy & Data Protection Law Is Inevitable Like a Pendulum Swing

It is a matter of when, not if, Congress will pass national privacy and data protection law for the 21st century.

It’s inevitable, because the U.S. privacy policy to date is operating as predictably as a pendulum swinging. Consider the evident big picture, pendulum dynamic at work here.

How Did Americans Lose Their Right to Privacy?

Americans want their right to privacy restored.

Prior to 1996, Americans had a well-established, offline right to privacy based on the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and several strong federal privacy statutes passed in 1974, 1974, 1978, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1994, and 1996.

Facebook Fiasco Is Exactly What US Internet Law Incents Protects & Produces

One gets what one rewards and tolerates.

U.S. Internet law and policy, which exempts and immunizes Internet platforms from most normal social responsibility and government accountability, has created a de facto anti-social contract with the American people; a cheaters charter for Internet platforms; and an increasingly corrosive culture of unaccountability.

Inputs drive outputs. Favoring unaccountability, favors irresponsibility.

This latest Facebook fiasco is just the latest in a long series of Internet-unaccountability wake-up calls for Congress.

The problem here is not tech, technology, the Internet, or a business model. They are mere tools that can be used for good or for bad.

The problem here is Congress predicated 1996 U.S. Internet law and policy on the implicit utopian ideal and naïve presumption that Internet technologies and businesses would only be forces for social good and not harm.

Congress Learns Sect 230 Is Linchpin of Internet Platform Unaccountability

U.S. Internet policy politics has shifted.

Congress has learned that any new legal accountability for, or regulation of, Internet platforms likely won’t survive court challenge, unless the new legislation also amends a 1996 law, Section 230, that selectively immunizes Internet platforms from most government legal accountability, and federal and state regulation.

Courts have interpreted Section 230 so broadly that Internet platforms like Facebook, Alphabet-Google, Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, grew confident that they could operate their businesses largely above the rules and outside the law that applied to everyone else.

The proof of this "Jekyll and Hyde" legal double standard, is that this week Congress had to amend section 230 to narrowly override its sweeping Internet platform immunity powers to legally enable child victims of sex trafficking to seek redress for their harms in court.

Yesterday the Senate passed FOSTA, the “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” with 97% support (97-2). Three weeks ago, the House passed it with 94% support, (388-25). Both passed over the strong opposition of Alphabet-Google and some other members of the Internet Association. President Trump is expected to quickly sign it into law.

Unregulated Google Facebook Amazon Want Their Competitors Utility Regulated

Americans believe in equal accountability, that no one should be above rules or outside the law.

Then why are America’s only unaccountable network monopolies, Alphabet-Google, Facebook, and Amazon, calling for maximal accountability of utility-grade, network-neutrality regulation for their ISP competitors, but no accountability for their own apparent utility-like, monopoly distribution networks?

What to Expect from the Simons-FTC

Summary

More change is coming to the FTC than most appreciate.

That’s because the FTC is in the process of an unprecedented, clean-slate leadership change, at the same time society is undergoing an extraordinary inflection point – the “techlash.”  

In a nutshell, the evidence to date shows the eventual Simons-FTC is on path to be a tough, bipartisan, populist, by-the-book, enforcer of antitrust and consumer protection laws. That would be in stark contrast to, the “laxter” enforcement and apparent Google-capture, of the 2012-2017 Ramirez-FTC, and the current, sidelined, no-quorum, Ohlhausen-FTC. 

Google’s Civilian Surveillance Data + A U.S. Military 5G Network = Bad Idea

 

SUMMARY

What could possibly go wrong with a nationalized, dual-use, military-civilian, secure 5G wireless network to centralize all military and civilian U.S. transportation traffic control and management with Alphabet-Google as the only commercial wireless ISP “financing/anchor tenant?” Way too much.

On PBS NewsHour Gigi Sohn & I Discuss End of FCC Broadband Privacy Order

Please see PBS NewsHour’s five minute segment here with Gigi Sohn and I discussing Congress’ rescission of the FCC’s unimplemented broadband privacy order that the Wheeler-FCC majority passed last October by a 3-2 vote.

Congress right to save consumers from net neutrality privacy rules The Hill Op-ed

 

Please see my latest The Hill op-ed: “Congress was right to save consumers from privacy rules imposed under net neutrality.”

Consumer privacy has been the biggest loser from net neutrality proponents’ politicization of privacy.

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Q&A One Pager Debunking Net Neutrality Myths