Google and Facebook Finalize FTC Settlements Over Privacy Violations: Will They Regain User Trust?

Not many would give tech companies like Google or Facebook a thumbs up for their treatment of user privacy. (Photo: Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Google has accepted its $22.5 million fine issued by the Federal Trade Commission this week. Facebook is also finalizing its November settlement with the FTC where it is committing to 20 years of audits and $16,000 fines per day for any violation found.

Both of these tech giants were slammed with the fines for issues regarding their users’ privacy. Both also refuse to admit any wrongdoing, although they still accept the fines. They also share growing reputation for upsetting users over repeated privacy concerns.

Today, Politico asks “Can Google Be Trusted?” It makes note of a spokesperson saying the company “works closely with regulators to answer their questions and we are always happy to have feedback on our products.” But many have expressed their discontent of late:

“The accretion of these issues and enforcement actions simply undermines trust and credibility, which goes to the core of their business model,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who investigated Google as Connecticut’s attorney general in 2010, told POLITICO. “As a former law-enforcement official, credibility and trust are very important to assessing generally whether and how to settle cases.”

Privacy officials overseas are in a huff about Google’s recent revelation that it discovered a fresh batch of data from about a dozen countries from its Street View mapping cars, including personal tidbits gleaned from unsecured Wi-Fi networks. The United Kingdom and France have reopened their investigations and are demanding that Google hand over the data. And earlier this week, Australia’s top privacy cop said he is “concerned that the existence of these additional disks has come to light, particularly as Google had advised that the data was destroyed.”

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“They haven’t fallen off into the abyss yet, but bit by bit Google’s credibility is dissipating,” said Robert Lande, a professor of antitrust law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. “They are certainly going down a slippery slope.”

From here though, Politico writes that “trust will be more important than ever to Google.” But can Google and Facebook fix the image they’ve already started to create? If not, are we all already too ingrained in the services to give them up for lack of trust? My guess is we’ll all still be using the most popular search engine in the world and its associated products as well as the most popular social media site anyway.

Read more from Politico regarding the trust issues surrounding Google here.

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