updated 11:30 am EDT, Fri March 16, 2012
EU and US worried Google broke privacy rules
Sources slipped word late Thursday that several American and European regulators were investigating Google over the practices that led to possibly breaching Safari privacy. France's Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des LibertÚs, the US Federal Trade Commission, and the attorneys general of several states were said by the Wall Street Journal to be looking into whether Google had been deceptive in letting browser cookies through despite users' own settings. The CNIL would be bolting the checks on to its existing privacy investigations, while the FTC wanted to see if the behavior violated an earlier privacy agreement where Google said it would be straightforward in requests.
The FTC was checking to see how many people had been covered, which could be interpreted as a preamble to proposing a fine.
Google wouldn't immediately confirm the investigations at hand, but said it would "of course cooperate" if asked. A spokeswoman reiterated that the effects of its browser behavior, which let third parties and not just itself inject cookies, weren't expected. Google had been pulling those ad cookies, she added.
Concerns had escalated after an investigation found that Google's website was ignoring Safari privacy limits in certain conditions. On Safari, it was submitting a fake form that 'tricked' the browser into taking a cookie so that expected behavior with +1s would keep working even if all cookies were turned off. Microsoft claimed that Google was trying a similar approach, but it has been called into question for possibly using a legitimate concern to piggyback with a questionable attack against Google.
Several investigations are underway worldwide that have increasingly cast Google as having pushed too hard on search and attempts to collect information. Particularly in the wake of Google+ and its desire to link a personal account to various services, concerns are that it has been prioritizing its own services unfairly relative to its market share on the web and in mobile.