Senator warns FTC against messing up the Internet

Josh Peterson Tech Editor

Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran is warning federal regulators against messing up the Internet as they close in on Google for alleged antitrust violations.

In a letter to FTC Chairman Jon Liebowitz sent Thursday, Moran urged regulators to tread “carefully,” warning of the harmful economic impact of regulating the technology sector, which is recognized across the political spectrum as a bright spot of the American economy.

“I encourage the Commission to remain focused on addressing concrete consumer harms and take into consideration the impact of their decisions on innovation, entrepreneurship, and the economy,” Moran said.

Moran’s letter came just days after European regulators publicly put Google on notice for its privacy policy in a letter sent Tuesday.

U.S. and European regulators are targeting the company in parallel investigations on a number of issues, which include allegations of privacy violations and anti-competitive business practices.

“We are confident that our privacy notices respect European law,” Peter Fleischer, Global Privacy Counsel for Google, said in a statement.

Google’s competitors have pushed government regulators to investigate the search giant for several years. The FTC scored its first major victory against Google in 2011, when the company’s now-defunct social networking service, Google Buzz, breached users’ privacy by publicly revealing some of their personal information.

A source told TheDC that a verdict from the FTC could come as early as Nov. 7, the day after the presidential election. However, previous speculation had expected the FTC to announce its decision in early October.

But search giants and software companies aren’t the only emerging threats to privacy. Citizens regularly suffer from privacy intrusions by governments across the world, as well – even in the U.S.

Google’s own transparency report revealed that the U.S. government has submitted more requests for private user data than any other country this year. Of the 6,321 such requests submitted during the first six months of 2012, Google reports that it has complied with 93 percent of them.

France, which was the first signatory to the letter European regulators sent to Google CEO Larry Page, made the sixth-highest number of requests for user data throughout the first six months of 2012, with 1,404. Germany, the next highest on the list, made 1,426 requests. The United Kingdom came in fourth on the list with, 1,455 private user data requests.

Google reported that it has complied with 44 percent, 45 percent and 64 percent of those requests, respectively.

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