Google Settles Apple Safari Privacy Charges, Pays FTC $22.5 Million

In a special deal today with the Federal Trade Commission, Google Inc. agreed to play $22.5 million to settle the charges of bypassing privacy settings of people who use Apple’s Safari browser. The deal ends the FTC probe into the allegations, and Google was not required to admit to any liability or admit to any wrongdoing. The charges arose from the FTC’s consent degree with Google from 2011, in which Google promised not to use browser cookies to monitor who had blocked its tracking code.

In addition to the payment, Google must submit to 20 years of audits by the FTC as well as disable the tracking cookies that ended up on Safari users’ computers and devices after visiting DoubleClick ad-network enabled websites.

 

Both Google and Facebook track tons of data from their site visitors, but many experts feel that neither company is doing enough to safeguard customer privacy. Both companies agreed last year to 20 years of audits by the FTC to ensure that privacy, however.

“No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

The penalty is the largest ever given to a company for violation of an FTC order, but Google can probably handle it. The search company recently reported second-quarter revenue of $12.21 billion.

“The Commission has allowed Google to buy its way out of trouble for an amount that probably is less than the company spends on lunches for its employees and with no admission it did anything wrong,” said John Simpson, privacy project director for the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, who plans to block the settlement unless Google admits to violating the order.

For its part, the FTC believes that the penalty is fair, if not too high of a punishment for such a successful company.

“We have Google under order for another 19 years … and if there’s further violations, one could anticipate that the Commission would insist on increasingly higher civil penalties,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Google seems chastened, and willing to pay the price for the privacy snafu.

“We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers,” a Google spokesperson said on Thursday.
Read more at http://www.cultofmac.com/183789/google-settles-apple-safari-privacy-charges-pays-ftc-22-5-million/#FuQ7xRzPeHO5v3Ac.99

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