Google has asked for help from other tech giants to block children’s privacy, states say

The complaint does not detail what happened at the meeting, which states say occurred on August 6, 2019. But Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said on Friday that no representative from his company had attended the meeting.

A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on the meeting. Facebook did not immediately offer a comment when asked on Friday.

The documents – filed in an antitrust lawsuit by Texas, 14 other states and Puerto Rico – emerge at a time of growing frustration in Congress over the tech industry’s privacy practices and slow progress. push for federal data privacy law. A New York federal judge ordered the document unsealed at the request of 23 media outlets, including POLITICO.

Google spokeswoman Julie Tarallo McAlister said the new allegations in the Texas lawsuit were “riddled with inaccuracies,” but did not relate to the state meeting minutes.

“We have been clear about our support for consistent privacy rules around the world,” she said. “For example, we have been asking Congress to pass federal privacy legislation for years.”

But Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.), A leading advocate for children’s privacy legislation, said revelations from the 2019 meeting suggest otherwise.

“Big Tech and its army of lobbyists are working hard to block congressional efforts to enact privacy legislation because it would cost them money,” Markey said. “It’s that simple. Even when it comes to children, these companies put their bottom line before the well-being of their users.”

A week before the meeting, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it was considering changing its interpretation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which prohibits companies from collecting information about children under 13 without parental permission. Markey and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Had also introduced a bill to amend this law to better protect adolescents between 13 and 15 years old.

“Whether at this meeting or at another forum, we may want to point out that this is a particularly important area to have a coordinated approach,” Google said in its internal privacy note. of children cited in the complaint.

“We have the direction of Kent [Walker] find alignment with MSFT where we can, but we must beware of their activity [in promoting privacy] and seek to get as much information as possible, ”the memo added. (The parentheses, which appear in the version of the quote cited in the complaint, indicate that the “direction” came from Google’s senior vice president and general counsel, Kent Walker.)

In the same memo, Google said it may not be able to persuade Facebook to “align with our goals and our privacy strategy,” adding that the social network “prioritizes its reputation over its business interest in legislative debates ”.

Less than a month after the meeting, Google agreed to pay $ 170 million to resolve the allegations by the FTC and the The New York attorney general that he had violated COPPA by collecting information about children who watched videos on YouTube. The fine was the heaviest ever for violating children’s online privacy.

Jedi Blue: The recently unsealed court file also offers new details about a 2018 advertising deal between Google and Facebook dubbed Jedi Blue – a deal whose disclosure last year brought new attention to the relationship between the No.1 actors and # 2 in online advertising.

The states alleged in their first complaint, filed in December, that Google and Facebook made a secret and illegal pact in 2018 to divide the market for ads on websites and apps. (The lawsuit alleges that Google has monopolized technology to buy, sell and serve ads online.) But the December filing redacted most of the details of the deal.

In Friday’s new brief, States cited an August 2018 presentation from Google that if it couldn’t “avoid competing with FAN [Facebook Audience Network]’, so he would collaborate with Facebook instead to’ build a moat ‘.

The deal was prompted by Facebook’s 2017 decision to use “header auctions” – a technology popular with website publishers that has helped them increase the money they’ve earned through to advertising. While Facebook sells ads on its own platform, it also operates a network to allow advertisers to serve ads on third-party apps and mobile websites.

Senior Facebook executives have said in emails that the deal with Google is “a big deal strategically.” The social network saw itself as having limited options: it could “‘invest hundreds of additional engineers’ and spend billions of dollars to lock down inventory in order to compete, leave the company, or strike a deal with Google. “.

Under the terms of the deal, which top company executives signed in November 2018, Google granted benefits to Facebook when the social network used its ad exchange, the states said. The duo have also integrated some of their software so that Google can pass data from Facebook to use to help track and identify users.

Google and Facebook have also hijacked technology that aims to block tracking on Apple devices and on Apple’s Safari browser, the states said.

Facebook’s response: Facebook spokesperson Christopher Sgro said the company supports “fair and transparent ad auctions” where “the highest bidder wins”.

“Nothing disclosed today changes this fact. On the contrary, the full dossier confirms what we’ve been saying from the start – that Facebook’s non-exclusive auction deal with Google, and the similar deals we have with other auction platforms, have helped increase the competition for ad placements, ”he said. “These business relationships allow Facebook to deliver more value to advertisers while compensating publishers fairly, which translates into better results for everyone.”

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