Top Story: Google Pays $22.5M to the Privacy Squad

 The Privacy Squad:  Privacy Enforcement is Here

Last week, Google agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle claims it violated its FTC Consent Decree in circumventing the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari users – the largest such settlement ever.  Commissioner Leibowitz explained that

the record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order. No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.

Ina blog post, the FTC explained that what got Google in trouble was inconsistency between what it did and what it said it would do — not just in its privacy policy but in other public statements about its practices and its adherence to the NAI Code of Principles.

The move follows an announcement by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has been an activist on privacy issues, to announce the creation of a privacy enforcement unit.

The Privacy Unit’s mission to enforce and protect privacy is broad. It will enforce laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes laws relating to cyber privacy, health privacy, financial privacy, identity theft, government records and data breaches. By combining the various privacy functions of the Department of Justice into a single enforcement and education unit with privacy expertise, California will be better equipped to enforce state privacy laws and protect citizens’ privacy rights.

At the same, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, a rising star in Maryland politics, assumed the Presidency of the National Association of Attorney Generals and announced that Privacy in the Digital Age would be his main initiative.

While privacy legislation may be stalled in Congress, we can expect plenty of activity on the regulatory and enforcement front.

Now will any of them hire Clarence Williams III?

More Info: FTC Press Release, FTC Blog Post; California Release, Maryland Release