Judge allows group to oppose FTC settlement with Google

Consumer Watchdog has until Sept. 21 to file a brief opposing the settlement

A judge has allowed privacy group Consumer Watchdog to move forward with an effort to oppose a US$22.5 million privacy settlement between Google and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

Consumer Watchdog opposes the settlement because Google did not admit that it violated a previous privacy agreement with the FTC. The FTC accused Google of placing tracking cookies on the devices of Safari browser users even after the company had told users that they would be exempt from such tracking and ad targeting because of the default settings in the browser.

"Google executives want to buy their way out of trouble with what for them is pocket change and then deny doing anything wrong," John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project director, said in an email. "Allowing this settlement undercuts the entire regulatory process. Companies and their executives must be held accountable when they violate legal agreements."

Late Tuesday, Judge Susan Illston of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California gave lawyers for Consumer Watchdog until Sept. 21 to file a brief opposing the settlement. Illston wrote that she may hold a hearing on the brief and responses from Google and the FTC.

Spokespeople for both Google and the FTC didn't immediately respond to requests for comments on the judge's decision.

"How can a settlement be in the public interest, when the guilty party gets to deny they did anything wrong?" Simpson said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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