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FTC: Google To Pay $22.5 Million Fine Over Bypassing Safari Privacy Settings

It’s official now: Google has to pay $22.5 million, the largest fine ever imposed on a single company by the US Federal Trade Commission. The total amount is part of the settlement the search giant has reached with FTC over its user monitoring practice. The practice had been bypassing Safari users privacy settings and allowing the internet giant to monitor user activity.

Google privacy bypass
The agency launched its investigation after a Stanford University researcher published an article detailing Google’s practice. The article revealed that Google had found a loophole allowing it to place its cookies via advertising on popular websites. Even if the user had Safari’s preferences set to reject them. As a result, Google could track the user’s web habits even though he/she gave them no permission to do so. Right after the news hit the mainstream media and the blogosphere, Google defended its position by claiming it didn’t collect personal information, like name or credit card data. However from most perspectives this practice was unethical.

"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," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement.

Since, as a default setting, Safari automatically rejects tracking cookies, Google needed to add code to some of its advertising, to make Safari think the user had granted permission to this one cookie after the user interacted with the ad.

The internet giant announced it has recently taken steps to remove the ad cookies, but the privacy issue remains open. Google, however has shown that some of its practices do violate the law, and this privacy setting workaround is just one of the long list. [Via BBC]

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