Feeds

Google pays just $22.5m to FTC over Safari tracking blunder

More of a tickle than a drop and cough test

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

As expected, Google has agreed to pay the US Federal Trade Commission a paltry penalty of $22.5m for its sneaky bypassing of the default privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser.

The consumer watchdog confirmed in a statement today that Google had settled on charges that it "misrepresented privacy assurances to users" and described the fine as the biggest one ever meted out over the violation of a Commission order.

Nonetheless, the payout is ridiculously small change to Google - which racks up sales of over $20m roughly every five hours. Indeed, the US regulator acknowledged the fact that the company generates billions of dollars of revenue annually.

The penalty was gently flung at the search and ad giant, after the FTC confirmed that it had violated an earlier privacy agreement with the commission.

There was another minor slap applied to the rosy cheek of CEO Larry Page, with the FTC stating that, in addition to the civil penalty, the order also demands Google to disable all the tracking cookies it had said it would place on consumers' computers.

The commission's chairman Jon Leibowitz said:

The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order.

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 referred the case to the US Department of Justice, which on Wednesday agreed that Google's privacy blunder was in the public interest and proposed a consent decree that is subject to court approval.

Google, as part of its original agreement in October 2011, avoided being fined and did not have to admit that its biz practices had been unlawful. However, it was always clear that a penalty would be issued to Google if it was found to have violated that deal.

A consent decree makes it clear that the defendant in question - in this case Google - had not operated outside of the law by breaking the initial settlement deal with the FTC.

So slapped hands all round, but the headmaster's cane remains fixed to the wall.

Click here for the FTC's full statement, and this way for a handy technical guide to Google's crafty screw-up. ®

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
ONE EMAIL costs mining company $300 MEEELION
Environmental activist walks free after hoax sent share price over a cliff
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
US judge: YES, cops or feds so can slurp an ENTIRE Gmail account
Crooks don't have folders labelled 'drug records', opines NY beak
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
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.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.