Google and FTC Near Deal for Record $22.5 Million Fine over Safari Privacy Circumvention
The Wall Street Journal reports that Google and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission are nearing a deal that would see Google paying a record $22.5 million fine over its tactics to circumvent privacy settings in Safari on iOS to track users' behavior.
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 case centers on a loophole in Safari's default privacy settings, with Google taking advantage of the hole to make the browser think that the user was interacting with a given ad, thus allowing a tracking cookie to be installed. With that cookie installed, it became easy for Google to add additional cookies and to track users across the web as they visited other sites displaying ads from Google's networks.
Google has argued that the tracking was unintentional and that it did not harm consumers, but the Federal Trade Commission pointed to previous statements by Google regarding Safari's privacy settings as evidence that the company was misrepresenting its privacy practices.
Google's tactics are also under scrutiny from a number of state attorneys general, who may yet pursue additional action against the company.