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Sunday, July 8, 2012

Flaws Found in US Watchdog System

Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist, has recently proved that the search giant Google has been bypassing technology developed to block tracking systems in order to allow for anonymous browsing. He suspected that Internet advertisers might be circumventing the legislation which stopped them from tracking people who moved from one website to another. Mayer ran a number of tests where he bought adverts which acted as sniffers for the kind of unauthorized cookies believed to be used.
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As a result, he found out that Google was secretly planting cookies on many iPhone browsers. This was done in exactly the way the FTC tries to protect people from, so the search engine is now reportedly facing a fine of over $10,000,000.

Worse still, the FTC itself did not discover the infringement – it didn’t even look for it. Jonathan Mayer is just a 25-year-old student of Stanford University working on law and computer science degrees. He discovered what the search giant was up to in his free time between classes and homework, and didn’t even get any money for his work.

The media reports say that although the FTC should be stopping the search engine and other organizations from doing such things, the outfit is given little cash to do its job. Moreover, there is reluctance for American politicians to take on the Internet giants, especially if those are funding their election campaigns.

However, the press reports revealed that the FTC officials hired by the Obama administration were privacy hawks who earlier worked for consumer-rights groups such as Public Citizen and the EFF. Their problem is lack of time or money to take on the technological leg work necessary to find out what the companies are doing. Another amazing fact is that the FTC’s Privacy and Identity Protection technologist isn’t able to do his research work, because his PC has security filters blocking access to key websites!

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