Google could soon face big fines over iOS Safari privacy controversy in FTC investigation

In February, the story broke that Google and other advertising companies were bypassing iOS Safari’s privacy settings and continuing to track users without their consent. Google quickly disabled its code responsible for the tracking after a story from The Wall Street Journal published, and Apple then claimed it was “working to put a stop” to the issue.

Now, a new report from Mercury News claimed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is considering whether to fine Google over the incident. The decision is expected in the next 30 days:

The Federal Trade Commission is deep into an investigation of Google’s actions in bypassing the default privacy settings of Apple’s (AAPL) Safari browser for Google users, according to sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between the company and the government… Within the next 30 days, the FTC could order the Mountain View search giant to pay an even larger fine in the Safari case than the penalty the Federal Communications Commission hit Google with Friday, say the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The report is referring to Google being recently fined $25,000 by the FCC after it allegedly “deliberately impeded and delayed” an investigation related to Street View cars. The heart of the Safari bypassing investigation is whether the company is violating a previous privacy agreement made with the FTC following controversy over the failed “Buzz” service. The report claimed Google could face up to $16,000 per violation per day for violating the agreement. Google said to Mercury News today it would “cooperate with any officials who have questions” and explained making its +1 compatible on mobile Safari created the issue:

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AT&T CEO: Recent price jacks due to AT&T’s attempt to monopolize GSM in US

AT&T has a grudge with the Federal Communications Commission, and during the mobile carrier’s quarterly earnings call today, CEO Randall Stephenson criticized the FCC over spectrum availability and the bombed acquisition of T-Mobile USA, with him further claiming that AT&T’s spectrum crux could cause jacked prices against its highest data users.

The American Telephone and Telegraph Company, founded in 1876, once held a monopoly on wired phone service in the United States, but the U.S. Department of Justice broke up Alexander Graham Bell’s company into seven “Baby Bells” with an antitrust lawsuit that turned into a settlement in 1982.

Since then, the company has slowly reassembled. Six of those seven “Baby Bells” merged into two single companies: AT&T, Inc., (Ameritech, BellSouth, Pacific Telesis, and Southwestern Bell) and Verizon Communications, Inc., (NYNEX and Bell Atlantic). The acquisition of the fourth largest wireless service provider in the U.S., Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile USA, would have poised AT&T to gain a monopoly once again, but this time through its 3G GSM service in the U.S., while garnering the No. 1 spot in the U.S. wireless market. However, the FCC stepped in this time and dashed the company’s monopolizing hopes.

The FCC requested a formal administrative hearing into AT&T’s proposed $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA last fall, subsequently causing the U.S. carrier to withdraw the pending approval applications in November 2011. The decision rolled into a killed bid and garnered a $4 billion pretax charge on AT&T’s Q4 2011 accountancy sheet that includes a $3 billion default payment due to Deutsche Telekom over the deal’s non-completion and an additional $1 billion in spectrum value that AT&T would have to forgo.

AT&T CEO Stephenson released his frustrations concerning the debacle at the company’s Q4 2011 financial conference call today. He set his sights on the FCC and lambasted the agency while decrying it of choosing “winners” and “losers” in regards to approving and regulating deals…

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AT&T- T-Mobile Merger looks to be over, companies pursuing a tactical workaround


Image via ARS

Big news today (surprisingly on a 4 day US weekend).  The AT&T and T-Mobile merger was withdrawn from the FCC today.

 On November 23, 2011, AT&T Inc. and Deutsche Telekom AG electronically withdrew without prejudice, as of that date, the pending applications listed in the Public Notice released by the Federal Communications Commission on April 28, 2011 in that proceeding. Associated manual notification of withdrawal filings also are being made.

The two companies look to be pursuing an alternative plan… Read more

Woz speaks up for net neutrality

Concerned about net neutrality and hold a little inner fear that one day access to the Web will involve tiered access with the ‘real’ Web almost impossible to get to?

Then be glad Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has taken time to tell an FCC net neutrality hearing to do the right thing and enact net neutrality rules that favor the people. Read more

WSJ: Apple's developer decision is Feds + competition

http://online.wsj.com/media/swf/VideoMicroPlayer.swf

According to the WSJ, Apple’s about face on 3rd party app development may have been due to pressure from the FCC:

The concession comes after the Federal Trade Commission launched an inquiry around June to determine whether Apple had violated antitrust laws with the earlier policy. It isn’t clear if Apple’s move Thursday was in response to the FTC’s investigation, but it will likely be carefully scrutinized by the regulatory agency, said people familiar with the situation.

They also speculate that other platforms may have been a factor: Read more