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Privacy Plus+ News

Privacy Plus+: Help us help you again (and read about the related FTC settlement with Google). 

Privacy, Technology and Perspective

Help us help you again (and read about the related FTC settlement with Google).  This week, we are again offering some practical advice about protecting your personal data, especially with respect to cookies and unique device identifiers.  This edition of Privacy Plus+ has been inspired by the Federal Trade Commission!

This week, the FTC announced that it (and the New York Attorney General) settled with Google for $170 million, resolving the FTC’s complaint against Google that, through its subsidiary YouTube, it violated Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”).

A link to the FTC’s Complaint follows:

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/cases/youtube_complaint.pdf

A link to the FTC’s press release announcing the settlement can be found here:

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2019/09/google-youtube-will-pay-record-170-million-alleged-violations

In its relevant part, the FTC and the New York Attorney General alleged that YouTube collected children’s personal information by using cookies without parental consent. Under the COPPA, the definition of “personal information” includes, among other things, a “persistent identifier that can be used to recognize a user over time and across different Web sites or online services,” such as a “customer number held in a cookie . . . or unique device identifier.” 16 C.F.R. § 312.2. According to the Complaint, on YouTube, Google enabled such tracking by default, and then tracked viewers of child-directed channels (children) across the Internet in order to target behavioral advertising at those individuals (children).

Some cookies make websites work.  Other cookies help with website analytics.  We understand that some cookies are good.  We are less appreciative of cookies designed for personalized, targeted, or interest-based advertising because they involve the tracking of an individual’s online activities across various websites—such tracking allows someone else to profit off that individual’s inferred interests by delivering tailored advertising based solely on Internet browsing history.

If you, like us, are not enthusiastic about being tracked across the Internet so that someone else can make money off you, here are some tools that you should consider:

1.    If you use the Google search engine or Google Chrome browser, then Google is collecting, storing, and using your search information to personalize your search results, and to show you targeted advertising.  Consider switching to the DuckDuckGo search engine, which doesn’t track you, but instead makes money by serving ads based only on the keywords of your search.   Also, consider downloading DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials, a browser extension and app that, among other things, block trackers automatically by default.

You can download the Google Chrome extension here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/duckduckgo-privacy-essent/bkdgflcldnnnapblkhphbgpggdiikppg;

 You can download the Mozilla Firefox extension here:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/duckduckgo-for-firefox/;

 And you can download the DuckDuckGo app here: https://duckduckgo.com/app.

 2.    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (“EFF”) also provides a browser extension, called Privacy Badger, which is designed to block persistent trackers automatically.  You can download Privacy Badger here: https://www.eff.org/privacybadger.

 3.    Finally, the Network Advertising Initiative (“NAI”) provides opt-opt tools that allow you to remove your device from NAI members engaging in Interest-Based Advertising on your browser by following this link: http://optout.networkadvertising.org/.

Had parents added these features, perhaps their children would not have been tracked by YouTube.  This is another reminder of why it is so important that we actually do what we can to protect ourselves.  

Hosch & Morris, PLLC is a Dallas-based boutique law firm dedicated to data protection, privacy, the Internet and technology. Open the Future℠.

 

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