Google is nearing a deal to pay US$22.5 million to settle charges related to its surreptitious bypassing of the privacy settings of millions of Apple users, reports “The Wall Street Journal” (http://macte.ch/bzOmw), quoting unnamed “officials briefed on the settlement terms.”
The fine is expected to be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. It offers the latest sign of the FTC’s stepped-up approach to policing online privacy violations, coming just six months after “The Wall Street Journal” reported on Google’s practices.
The consumer protection group, Consumer Watchdog, filed a complaint in February with the FTC after Stanford Researcher Jonathan Mayer revealed what the Internet giant was doing.
“Google hacked past a key privacy setting on iPhones and iPads and other devices using Apple’s Safari browser, placed tracking cookies on them and then lied, saying the settings were still effective,” says John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “I am delighted the FTC appears ready to take strong action against an obvious violation of Google’s promises to honor users’ privacy in its ‘Buzz’ Consent Decree with the Commission.”
Cookies are small bits of code placed on the browser and can be used by ad networks to track you as you surf the web. Blocking third-party cookies is supposed to prevent such tracking. Safari is the primary browser on the iPhone and iPad. It’s also the default browser on Apple’s computers. Read Jonathan Mayer’s study at http://webpolicy.org/2012/02/17/safari-trackers/ .