Feeds

Google expected to cough measly $22.5m for Safari privacy gaffe

Report: Choc Factory close to settling with FTC over fanboi-tracking blunder

Seven Steps to Software Security

Google is reportedly set to cough up a piddly penalty payment of $22.5m to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle its sneaky bypassing of the default privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser.

It was revealed by the Wall Street Journal in February this year that Google, Vibrant Media Inc, WPP PLC's Media Innovation Group LLC and Gannett Co's PointRoll Inc used code that "tricked" Safari into allowing users to have their online browsing habits tracked.

Apple's browser blocks most tracking by default with exceptions for websites that, for example, require interaction from a user – such as the filling in of an online form. Google claimed at the time that it had "mischaraterised" the code used by the ad companies.

Google later disabled the code, which installed a temporary cookie on the phones or computers of Safari users; the search biz's developers had embedded code into some of its ads that fooled the Apple browser into thinking that a form was being submitted to Google.

The WSJ is now reporting that Mountain View is close to settling with the FTC with a fine said to be the biggest of all time handed down by the regulator to a corporation.

Google offered up a withering statement to The Register that appeared to indicate that it had already accepted defeat.

We cannot comment on any specifics. However we do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users. The FTC is focused on a 2009 help centre page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy. We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.

The consent decree in question is the one the internet giant signed with the FTC in October last year, when Google agreed to be much more up front about its data-handling methods with its customers.

After Google's Buzz privacy howler in 2010, the company is now subjected to biennial audits for the next 20 years.

Google, as part of that agreement, avoided being fined and did not have to admit that its biz practices had been unlawful. However, if that decree has been violated, then the FTC was always clear that a fine would be slapped on Google.

The penalty is calculated based on $16,000 per violation per day and the number of iPad, iPhone and Mac users affected by Google's Safari privacy blunder could run into millions of customers.

However, as noted by the WSJ, Google racks up sales of over $20m roughly every five hours.

Perhaps Google just wants to pay the reported $22.5m fine and get on with fighting competition officials on the other side of the Atlantic. In Brussels, Belgium, the company is still fighting off "abuse of dominance" claims over its share of the search market in Europe.

The company's chairman, Eric Schmidt, sent a letter to the European Commission containing a "proposal" that Google claimed addressed the four areas of concern expressed earlier this year by Euro antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia.

The commissioner's office told El Reg this morning that competition officials were still perusing the contents of the letter, which has not been made public by Google.

Meanwhile, Google is undergoing a separate antitrust investigation in the US over claims the company unfairly manipulated results on its search engine to favour its own business. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.