Sen. Blumenthal Seeking Official Investigation of Google

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he plans to submit a formal request to the Federal Trade Commission that it investigate Google over its Google+ social media product.

That will come in a letter to the commission Wednesday (Oct. 10), perhaps with other signatories the senator suggested.

The senator had already signaled he thought the FTC would need to step in, but he is making it official.

Google reportedly did not disclose a vulnerability in Google+ that allowed user info to be accessible by third parties because it was concerned about the bad publicity.

Blumenthal revealed his investigation request during a Senate hearing on online privacy. He branded Google's actions as "deliberate concealment" that he called "absolutely intolerable."

He called Google "the elephant in the room" and said consumers currently have no meaningful federal protection for their data and that without strong enforcement of strong privacy rules--the subject of the hearing--consumers would continue to be at risk from such conduct.

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) pointed out that the Google vulnerability did not meet a threshold for mandatory public disclosure, which just showed that new privacy legislation was needed.

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have concluded some kind of online privacy protections, but what data it should apply to, whether it should be opt-in or opt-out, whether it should preempt state regs, how to define the sensitive information that should get special protections, and who should enforce new rules are all issues that will have to be worked out if bipartisan legislation is to pass.

Sen. Blumenthal said he is working on his own privacy bill. He said transparency and notice and choice are not longer sufficient.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.