The Wall Street Journal reports on how Google favored its own shopping, travel services over rivals, and the U.S. antitrust probe of Google:
The 160-page critique, which was supposed to remain private but was inadvertently disclosed in an open-records request, concluded that Google’s “conduct has resulted—and will result—in real harm to consumers and to innovation in the online search and advertising markets.”Is Google an unelected superpower? A truly sinister social networking platform could manipulate public opinion even more effectively. (Previously)
"The Obama Administration today unveiled a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as part of a comprehensive blueprint to protect individual privacy rights and give users more control over how their information is handled." Full 62-page PDF - Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy. "In addition, advertising networks announced that leading Internet companies and online advertising networks are committing to act on Do Not Track technology in most major web browsers to make it easier for users to control online tracking. Companies that represent the delivery of nearly 90 percent of online behavioral advertisements, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and AOL have agreed to comply when consumers choose to control online tracking. Companies that make this commitment will be subject to FTC enforcement." [more inside]
Christopher Soghoian, who exposed the latest Facebook PR move, is now filing an FTC complaint (pdf) against Dropbox on the grounds that they gained unfair competitive advantage by lying about how files are encrypted and who has access to them. Dropbox explains how safe your files are.
Why Does the FTC Mandate that Bloggers Disclose Freebies & Samples When Print Writers/Editors Don't Have To? Racked.com Asks an FTC Lawyer. Last year, Ann Taylor was investigated for offering giftcards to bloggers they failed to disclosed (the investigation was closed without enforcement).
POM Wonderful may not be so wonderful, but that might not be so surprising, given the history of Stewart and Lynda Resnick. The couple are involved with much more than pomegranate juice: they own Fiji Water, pesticide manufacturer Suterra, Paramount Agribusiness (source of citris, well-known pistachios and other nuts), and former owners of the Franklin Mint. This round with the Resnicks started in February 2010, with a warning from the FDA, which lead to a confusing bit of restraining order requested, then soon after requested to be withdrawn (with fears of pushing the First Amendment too far). That phase is past, but POM Wonderful is now stating they believe "very strongly in its first amendment rights to communicate the promising results," results which look similar to placebos taken by control subjects. The FTC is not impressed.
"It is possible that this has been the largest privacy breach in history across Western democracies"
"Google WiFi Snafu Likely Illegal." In May, Google admitted "inadvertently" collecting data from unsecured networks with its Streetview cars, resulting in investigations around the world and in the US. Activist Attorney General (and current US Senate candidate) Richard Blumenthal has lined up Google in his target sights (and recommended residents change their passwords), and six class action lawsuits have already been filed.
Anti-Identity-Theft Firm Lifelock was fined $12 Million in March for deceptive business practices by the FTC. More bad news: their CEO had his identity stolen 13 times after posting his own social security number in company ads as proof they could protect him. [more inside]
Much has been made of the ethics of bloggers who receive compensation -- usually in the form of demo units and trial versions of products -- in exchange for reviewing those products, often with the implicit understanding that the review is a positive one. These questions prompted an FTC investigation, and last fall the agency revised their formal guidelines governing endorsements and testimonials to include bloggers or other "word-of-mouth" marketers. The Interactive Agency Bureau maintains that the guidelines are unconstitutional, and is calling for the FTC to rescind the rules as they apply to bloggers and other online outlets. The latest casualty? An intern at TechCrunch asked for a MacBook Air in exchange for a post. In the wake of this revelation, TechCrunch fired the intern and issued a formal apology. To his credit, the intern has posted his own mea culpa.
In January 2005, someone using the name "Rahodeb" went online to a Yahoo stock-market forum and posted this opinion: "No company would want to buy Wild Oats Markets Inc., a natural-foods grocer, at its price then of about $8 a share." Who was that random fool? Why, none other than John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods. Whole Foods purchased Wild Oats earlier this year for approximately $18.50 a share, but the FTC has an issue with Whole Foods buying out their competitor. Mackey had responded to the FTC's complaint on his blog, but has not posted since some of his other online comments became publicly attached to his name.
In the last few years, Fair Isaacs, along with the FTC have made considerable effort in educating us in how our credit scores are derived. But is the whole system about to change? In a somewhat quiet AP story, the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian, announced they had agreed on a new common formula for generating your credit scores: VantageScore. [more inside]
FTC imposes $10M fine against ChoicePoint for data breach The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has fined ChoicePoint $10 million for a data breach that allowed identity thieves posing as legitimate businesses to steal social security numbers, credit reports, and other data from nearly 140,000 people. This is the largest fine ever levied by the FTC. ChoicePoint also has to set up a 'trust fund' for people victimized by identity thieves. From the article: 'As part of its agreement with the FTC, ChoicePoint will also have to submit to comprehensive security audits every two years for the next 20 years.'" BusinessWeek has additional info. Perhaps there might be hope for individual privacy after all. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.
WeightMoney Fast! If you click on this link, you'll go to an apparent sales site for "FatFoe TM Eggplant Extract" another 'miracle' weight loss aid. But click on the Order Now! link and you get a lecture from the FTC on how to avoid getting scammed by diet products that are too good to be true, all part of the US Federal agency's campaign against diet fraud.
"The Federal Trade Commission and Congress must act to prevent Fox News from using the deceptive and misleading trademark 'Fair and Balanced.'" After yesterday's 2,700 viewing parties and a Doonsbury plug, Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism is now the #1 selling DVD on Amazon. At the same time, MoveOn launches a campaign against the slogan, and AlterNet challenges Fox's trademark. (Previous discussion.)
Senate approves S.887 Can-Spam Bill. Spammers unhappy.FTC to report to Congress with a plan for creating a Do-Not-E-mail registry.
U.S. court rules FTC overstepped its authority when it set up the list to block telemarketing calls. Damn.
Music labels charged with price-fixing ... again While their organization is fighting hard to picture potential consumers as de-facto delinquents, the FTC has issued a rulign prohibitng them from agreeing with competitors to fix the prices or restrict the advertising of products they produced independently . The labels deny any wrongdoing, as they did with earlier FTC charges of a much larger price-fixing scandal that cost consumers an estimated $480 million (and was settled by paying 41 suing states $67.4 million in cash and offering $75.7 million in CDs.). Here is an idea: the main culprits of the labels losses, by far, are the rapidly receding sales of ... cassette, LP and vinyl products. Who'd have thought of that?
The Federal Trade Commission's National "Do Not Call" Registry, intended to stop unwanted telemarketing calls, became law yesterday. Do telemarketers have a First Amendment right to call you? The Direct Marketing Association, and industry lobby, thinks so.
FTC creates national ‘do not call’ list While there have been state lists for quite some time, and some organizations (like the DMA) maintain do-not-call lists requiring members to honor DNC requests, the FCC is now talking about a single, federal list that would require compliance from all telemarketers, and levy fines for non-compliance. Is this the end of telemarketing as we know it today?
Finally, no more Miss Cleo commercials as the Federal Trade Commission steps into to prosecute late-night TV's most popular psychic peddler. At first I thought if you dumb enough to call a psychic line, the gov't shouldn't be stepping in to block the charges, as the article notes the average call was $60, but they also note misleading "free reading" claims and crooked billing procedures. If you're making that kind of money, why resort to underhanded business practices? Even more obvious: why didn't she see this coming and change their ways?
The Federal Trade Commission is seeking to curtail the activities of telemarketers through the creation of a national 'do-not-call' registry. But the telemarketing industry says the FTC's plan would violate their First Amendment rights.
Take that Meatfilter.com... On Monday, Oct. 1, the FTC plans to announce the beginning of a campaign against scores of Web sites that capitalize on typo variants of popular domain names in order to dupe unsuspecting Internet surfers. I think this is a good thing, but how far can the US government truly influence shady internet practices? Should it even try?
FTC ends investigation of DoubleClick and finds no evidence of wrongdoing. I don't know about you, but I feel cheated. Don't forget to opt out of their cookie-bending racket.
FTC unanimously approves AOL/Time Warner merger. With a couple of restraint-avoidance conditions. Wonder who's gonna enforce those... Aw, crap.
Although this story doesn't sound like much, the FTC coming down on Time Warner, the effects could be great. Time Warner has agreed to ban their minimum pricing on featured new CDs, admitting that for the last seven years, these compact discs have been artificially overpriced. Do you think making CDs cheaper for the first time in years had anything to do with all the attention mp3s have been getting from consumers?