Markey Statement on FTC Settlement with Google for Safari Browser Privacy Violations


Lawmaker urged FTC to investigate Google after reports that consumer privacy settings were circumvented

WASHINGTON, DC - On February 17, 2012, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-Chairmen of the Bi-partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, and Cliff Sterns (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight & Investigations, sent a letter asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if Google had violated an agreement with the Commission for alleged privacy misrepresentations. The letter came after The Wall Street Journal reported that Google and several other online-ad companies have been intentionally circumventing the privacy settings of users of Apple’s Safari Internet browser to track users’ online activities.  The Journal story explained that to evade Safari’s default blocking of tracking by online-ad companies, Google exploited a loophole in the browser’s privacy settings, enabling the company to install a cookie on users’ phones or computers without their knowledge or consent.

"When consumers say 'No' to tracking, companies should not try to surreptitiously circumvent this preference," said Rep. Markey. "Today’s announcement reinforces the need to vigorously monitor the promises technology companies make about protecting consumers’ privacy.  I commend the FTC for pursuing any potential violation and plan to continue my own strong oversight in this area."