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Judge confirms Google's miserly $22.5m Safari privacy FTC payout

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A US judge has accepted Google's offer of just $22.5m to settle with the FTC over Safari cookies, despite pressure from a consumer rights group to stiffen the penalty.

District Judge Susan Illston decided that the agreement was "substantively fair, adequate and reasonable", rejecting Consumer Watchdog's objections that the penalty was too small and Google hadn't admitted any liability.

Google got in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission when it was discovered that Safari browser users were being tracked by the firm's cookies despite their privacy settings. The Chocolate Factory had already signed a legal agreement with the FTC over Google Buzz privacy blunders and promised not to do anything like that again.

In the Safari case, Google claimed ignorance of the cookies tracking Safari users all over the place and offered the small fine and to disable all the cookies it had placed on computers already by February 2014.

Consumer Watchdog said the fine wasn't enough to cover the amount Google promised in the Buzz agreement if it breached privacy again.

"The statutory maximum would be $16,000 for each violation, and thus could far exceed the $22.5 million. Even if one-tenth of one percent of Safari users saw the misrepresentation, the statutory penalty would exceed $3 billion," the rights group argued.

But Judge Illston said there weren't enough consumer losses or Google profits to warrant a bigger fine. She added that there was no legal reason to reject the settlement because of Google's refusal to admit its guilt. ®

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