The online world where most of us live is infested with privacy and security problems. If it isn’t Google, it’s Facebook. If it isn’t Amazon, it’s some hacker next door or in China trying to get into your gadget.
Privacy and security have become buzzwords that are little more than paper mache coatings on our digital lives. Nothing is private. Nothing is secure. We want to think otherwise, but arguing the point is futile. Take Google. Please.
Corporations are people, too. Mitt Romney said that and look where it got him. Well, OK. He’s rich. And a Senator. Children are people, too, and that means they have rights, and those rights get violated just like yours and mine.
Google and subsidiary YouTube has been hit with a record $170 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission, to settle allegations the search company violated a law protecting children’s privacy.
That may sound like a hideous amount of money to you, your friends and neighbors; it is to me, too. What could you do with $147-million? Other than live happily ever after.
Much of what Google, Facebook, and other privacy offenders do is automated; there’s nobody sitting at the controls on a server someplace watching which websites you visit, but information about that gets stripped and used anyway.
Google did it with kids.
YouTube collected data on its youngest users and broke the law by not gaining consent from parents beforehand. The complaint further claims the collection was made via cookies, persistent identifiers which allowed YouTube and Google to target ads to viewers.
The problem with the penalty is not how big it is but how small it is. $147-million is more of a rounding error on some financial balance sheet than it is a penalty. Google is that rich.
FTC Chairman Joe Simons:
YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients… Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law
That’s probably because such violations are modus operandi at Google.
In fact, if you Google “google privacy violations and fines” you’ll get a laundry list– dirty laundry– of violations all over the world; collectively, they amount to hundreds of millions to a few billion dollars and even those totaled still make Google one of the richest companies on planet earth.
While we might think it takes special equipment and expense to enhance our privacy and security, actually both are cheap.
They don’t really exist; they are relative terms. So, choose what gadgets you buy and which websites you view with extra care because this is earth we’re talking about, a place where everyone is out to get you (which makes paranoia a good attitude to have) and everyone wants your money.