Google FTC Fine Hits Record Of £14m

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has confirmed that Google will have to pay a $22.5 million (£14m) fine for bypassing the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser.

Google had been accused of using code to bypass Safari piracy settings that blocked user tracking cookies by default, violating an earlier privacy settlement with the FTC.

The search giant agreed the fine with the FTC earlier this month and it represents the largest penalty that the authority has ever issued for the violation of a commission order. The order also requires that Google disable all of the tracking cookies that it said it would not put on consumers’ computers.

Google FTC

“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” said Jon Leibowitz, chairman of the FTC.  “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.”

The FTC claimed that for several months in 2011 and 2012 Google placed tracking cookies on Safari users’ computers, despite telling them that they would be automatically opted out of such tracking as a result of the default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads.

Google was also accused of changing a page in its help centre that provided inaccurate information to its Safari users about cookies.

In February, Google was also accused of “tricking” users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 into accepting cookies. However it disputed these claims, arguing that the browser’s privacy policy was old and broken.

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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