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Google Settles with FTC for $22.5 Million in Safari Case

By - Source: FTC | B 9 comments

Google and the FTC have agreed on a settlement regarding claims that the search giant had bypassed Safari's security settings to track users.

Over the last couple of weeks we've seen several reports that claimed the FTC was going to fine Google $22.5 million for bypassing users' security settings in Safari. At the beginning of August, word on the street was that Google and the FTC were close to agreeing on a settlement. Today, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it had indeed reached a settlement with the search giant for violating an earlier FTC privacy settlement.

Valued at $22.5 million, the civil penalty is the largest ever obtained for a violation of a Commission order and settles charges that Google tracked Safari users via cookies and served targeted ads despite the browser's default settings not allowing the search company to do so. Google is also required to disable all the tracking cookies that it wasn't supposed to place on consumers' computers.

"The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order," said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC.  "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."

Back in February, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google and other ad networks were taking advantage of a certain exception within the Safari browser. You see, Apple's Safari is set to block third-party cookies by default, accepting cookies only from sites that a user visits or interacts with. The exception to this rule allows cookies if you interact with a form or advertisement in certain ways. The Journal reported that Google and other ad networks took advantage of this exception by using an invisible form and its +1 Google+ recommendation system. Essentially, Google allowed Safari users who had signed into Google+ to interact with DoubleClick ads using an embedded '+1' button. This would then send off an invisible form that would have Safari think the user had provided permission for cookies to be stored.

At the time, Google said it used the workaround to enable signed-in G+ users the ability to +1 content around the web but was unaware it inadvertently enabled the advertising cookies. However, the FTC worried that Google was violating a previous privacy agreement and launched an investigation into the issue. The FTC this week said that that Google's misrepresentations violated an October 2011 settlement that barred Google from misrepresenting the extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information. 

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  • -1 Hide
    Anomalyx , August 10, 2012 5:02 PM
    So... Who gets the money? The black hole that is the US government?
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2012 5:44 PM
    Peanuts...
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , August 10, 2012 6:03 PM
    these cases are soo lame. its not like the peoples who's privacy was compromised will get any of this cash, it just goes to the lawyers and Executive bonuses. Allot like the MPAA and RIAA suing everyone, the artists don't see any benefit of any settlement money they get. Its all pointless.
  • 2 Hide
    dark_knight33 , August 10, 2012 6:23 PM
    AnomalyxSo... Who gets the money? The black hole that is the US government?


    Like the majority of federal fines it goes into the general treasury. So, I'd say it goes to China ATM.

    Congress handles money. If you don't like how the gov't is handling that money, stop voting the same douche bag senators into office just because *your* senator is ok. Every state's senators are the problem, and a two term limit (which is still 12 years!) is the answer. Everybody hates the senate, but nobody will vote them out because "It's all the other people in congress that are the problem"... *rolleyes*
  • 1 Hide
    alidan , August 10, 2012 8:10 PM
    dark_knight33Like the majority of federal fines it goes into the general treasury. So, I'd say it goes to China ATM. Congress handles money. If you don't like how the gov't is handling that money, stop voting the same douche bag senators into office just because *your* senator is ok. Every state's senators are the problem, and a two term limit (which is still 12 years!) is the answer. Everybody hates the senate, but nobody will vote them out because "It's all the other people in congress that are the problem"... *rolleyes*


    i want a dummy bill to go to the senate, well... all elected officials.
    it will have 200-500 pages of good in it, with 10 pages here and there that allow for the rape of babies legal and a televised event, you know, something so shockingly horrific that no one who read the bill could vote yes for.

    every phone they have will be tapped while this is in the works, and in the bill there is a clause that if you talk about it to anyone, immediate impeachment.

    anyone who votes yes to it would be impeached on the spot, that way we get people out of office that dont even read the bills and require cliff notes.

    but before this bill, i want one proposed by democrats, that is 100 pages long, all of it good ideas that republicans suggested, but with a 1 or 2 page clause that basically says, none of this crap will be voted in, this is a yay or nay vote is for your job, iv you vote against, you are impeached on the spot.

    for anyone who doesnt know the reason for the above bill... the republicans are voting against everything the democrats want, because they are democrats, and are actually voting for things to hurt our country to make obama look bad... with quotes such as "my job is to make obama a 1 term president"

    america needs to cleanse its electicted officials because they don't care about our country anymore. they are in the pockets of corporations, or are actively making our country worse to make democrats look bad.
  • 0 Hide
    cmg5217 , August 10, 2012 10:00 PM
    I'm tired if people saying that china owners all of America's debt. The Federal Reserve owns most of our debt. China owns about as much as japan owns. Everyone just goes along with what politicians tell them without fact checking. Its truly sad that people are so ignorant.
  • 0 Hide
    cmg5217 , August 10, 2012 10:01 PM
    Sorry for typos, posting from my phone. Custom ROM isn't the greatest.
  • 1 Hide
    dark_knight33 , August 11, 2012 7:13 PM
    cmg5217I'm tired if people saying that china owners all of America's debt. The Federal Reserve owns most of our debt. China owns about as much as japan owns. Everyone just goes along with what politicians tell them without fact checking. Its truly sad that people are so ignorant.


    I didn't say China owns all of our debt; that is an ignorant statement.

    Considering that the Fed owns over $6 trill worth of debt, compared to the $1 trill that china owns, it seems pretty obvious that the Federal reserve would get paid back first, right?

    Wrong. Congress continually passes legislation that allows the gov't to not only not pay back that debt, but continue to create it. Where do you think that $6 trill comes from? A very large part of it is the medicare & social security "trust" fund that is continually getting raped to fund defense spending (a.k.a "Nation building").

    China on the other hand, gets their interest payments in a timely fashion.

    So yeah, that $22.5m, it's fair to say it's going to our 2nd largest debt holder, China atm.

    To be fair, it's all one big pile of money. Who's to say which dollar ultimately goes where? Japan does own only slightly less portion of our Debt than China, but at least they aren't our political and military adversaries. So, if it were up to me, I'd pay down China first, just to get that rather embarrassing monkey off our back.
  • 0 Hide
    eddieroolz , August 13, 2012 6:27 PM
    Just 22.5 million for an event that showed just how sinister Google can be? That's a new low.
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