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Google Needs Extra Time to Spy on Your Kids

Google spy

It seems that Google is constantly falling afoul of conservatives, consumers, pundits, regulators and really everyone else on earth (except for the Obama campaign) for its privacy-infringing tendencies.

It got hammered for “alleged” spying in the Safarigate scandal, where it wound up agreeing to a record-breaking $22.5 million fine in connection with charges it surreptitiously tracked Apple Safari users who Google had said could opt out of tracking, and did what Google said was necessary to opt out. This spying of course enabled Google to grab data it shouldn’t have had, to improve its highly profitable targeted ad business, and do it in a way that amounted to a violation of its contract with users.

There has also been a bunch of hubbub about the ability of Google Glass to be used for surveillance purposes, whether it is having shopping “watchers” covertly track what shoppers buy or enabling people to illicitly spy on bathroom users, in circumstances where the spying would be hard to spot given the nature of the technology.

There has been controversy about Google “streamlining” involving different Google properties and the concurrent, resultant ratcheting down of privacy standards to the lowest common denominator.

Now, in a little-noticed piece of news (which is why I’m writing on this now), it looks like Google, via a front group, has been fighting to keep its access to your kids’ private information for as long as they can. And by “your kids,” I mean 8 year-olds, not 17 year-olds.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) restricts websites from knowingly collecting information from children younger than 13 years of age. The FTC’s revision, scheduled to take effect on July 1, expands the regulations to cover games, apps and ad networks.

App developers have asked the FTC to delay the implementation of the rules until Jan. 1, 2014, saying they need more time to ensure their products are in compliance.

The App Developers’ Alliance “represents both large and small app developers, including Twilio and Google” (my emphasis.)

Google discloses its funding of the App Developers’ Alliance here.

Conservatives, including me, aren’t generally fans of regulation. And to be sure, ensuring kids are not inadvertently enabling themselves to be virtually “spied on,” if you object to that kind of thing, by disabling cookies and tracking and so on is called good parenting. (Though it’s worth noting that if you’re an Apple and Safari user, that kind of became impossible at a certain point, not that Google bothered telling you so, they just kept tracking your web browsing and collecting data on your usage).

But it is a little creepy that Google, via this group, seems to be trying to preserve its ability to scour your 12 year-old’s email or web browsing history or YouTube viewing history to build even better consumer profiles on your kids to use to market to them– or help better build out OFA or the DNC’s voter/donor/volunteer targeting list– throughout their lifetimes.

Luckily, they only want to be able to do it for an extra six months or so. But that may not console conservatives who take a skeptical view of Google given its ties to the Obama administration, or parents, who are getting more and more concerned about their kids’ online privacy and security, whether it be from marketers or more nefarious types.

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