updated 07:43 am EDT, Tue July 10, 2012
Google to settle Safari privacy breach for $22.5 million
The FTC is set to hand Google a record $22.5 million fine for bypassing the privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser, reports the Wall Street Journal. The search and mobile giant is said to be close to settling the matter, although the deal still needs to be ratified by the full panel of FTC commissioners. If indeed Google agrees to settle the breach for the $22.5 million figure, it will represent the largest fine the FTC has handed to a single entity.
Ironically, Google's infraction came just 8 months into a 20 year consent decree that it had entered into with the FTC in which it had agreed not to misrepresent its privacy practices to consumers. Despite this, Google created code that overrode Safari's default cookie privacy setting which only accepts cookies from sites visited by users. It claims it did this to enable users of its +1 button as part of its Google+ social network and that users actually wanted the function enabled.
What makes the infraction worse, is the it allowed Google's DoubleClick ad network to set tracking cookies allowing Google to track user web activity unbeknownst to the user. Google has since disabled the function although it is just the latest in a series of privacy intrusions by the company. As the single largest online search engine, along with being the purveyor of Android, the world's most widely used mobile operating system, Google has access to a wealth of user data that it uses to target its advertising.