ftc

Tim Bradshaw

The Federal Trade Commission is probing Google’s $1bn acquisition of Waze, the social navigation app.

A Google spokesperson confirmed that the company had been contacted by the FTC about the mapping deal but did not comment on the nature of its investigation. Read more

Richard Waters

Victory on the main issue raised in the US anti-trust investigation of Google – the charge of search bias – is likely to remove any self-imposed limits the company has observed while under intense regulatory scrutiny over the past two years (Google’s own response, hinting at more aggressive competition to come, certainly suggested as much.)

Another consequence, noted by former FTC official David Balto: Any hopes that rivals had about riding on the back of regulatory action to bring their own private lawsuits have been dashed.

But in the area of patents, at least, the concession Google has made to end a US anti-trust investigation could have wider ramifications. Read more

In the 2002 film Minority Report, John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, walks through a shopping mall of the future, where a storefront camera equipped with facial recognition technology recognises him and delivers a real-time, hyper-personalised ad: “John Anderton! You could use a Guinness right now.”

That future is now, with digital billboards able to determine a passer-by’s age, gender, and racial background, and even in some instances, an individual’s exact identity.

US regulators are anticipating the spread of these technical capabilities, attempting to protect consumer privacy before it gets breached. The Federal Trade Commission issued a set of recommendations on Monday for the evolution of facial recognition technology, beseeching companies that use it, like Facebook and Kraft, to design such features with a privacy-first approach. Read more

The Federal Trade Commission finalised its settlement agreement with Facebook over charges that the social network deceived consumers by repeatedly making public information users believed would be kept private.

The settlement was first reached last November, and requires Facebook to take several steps to ensure it “lives up to its promises” on privacy, including: obtaining express permission from users before sharing information beyond their privacy settings; maintaining a comprehensive privacy programme; and undergoing independent privacy audits once every two years. Read more

Getty Images

Facebook users can rest easier. This week, the social networking site settled a privacy complaint from the Federal Trade Commission.

While Mark Zuckerberg admitted “a bunch of mistakes” had been made in the past, he wrote that the company is “committed to being transparent”. But skeptics questioned whether sharing information on Facebook and user privacy can coexist. Read more

Tech news from around the web:

  • The US Federal Trade Commission is considering launching an antitrust investigation into Google’s dominance of the internet-search industry, Bloomberg reports. Before proceeding with any probe, the FTC would await a decision by the US Justice Department on whether it will challenge Google’s planned acquisition of travel search company ITA Software, Bloomberg adds.

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David Gelles

Calls to regulate social networks in the US are growing louder as Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY) has called on the Federal Trade Commission to set guidelines for how companies including Facebook and Twitter handle user data.

In a letter to the FTC, Sen Schumer said he was concerned that users were unwittingly sharing data they assumed was private with the entire internet, and that the sites made it too difficult for users to opt out of new settings that make information public by default. “The opt-out procedure is unclear, confusing, and you might even say hidden,” he said during a press conference. Read more

Richard Waters

Here’s another sign that winning approval for Google’s purchase of mobile advertising company AdMob isn’t turning out to be plain sailing in Washington: Senator Herb Kohl, chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s antitrust sub-committee, has just written to the Federal Trade Commission urging it to take a long, hard look at the deal.

It’s worth noting Kohl’s close ties to Jon Leibowitz, the FTC chairman. Leibowitz was a long-time staffer for Kohl, having served as his chief counsel for 12 years up to 2000. And while Kohl doesn’t come right out and say the AdMob deal should be blocked, he doesn’t stop far short. Read more

Joseph Menn

The US Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday that heavily promoted identity theft prevention company LifeLock agreed to pay it and 35 states $12m to settle their accusations that it deceived consumers with a bogus $1m “guarantee” that it would stop fraud in their names.

The FTC’s legal complaint is the latest in a series of embarrassments for the Arizona company, which charges $10 a month and seared itself into the public’s mind with ads featuring the likes of former Sen. Fred Thompson, Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh. Read more