We wrote last month about Google’s agreement to settle with the government which would require approval by the Federal Trade Commission. Well the Commission has now approved the settlement. Google Inc. will pay the civil penalty of $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple Inc’s Safari browser. Members of the FTC voted to approve the consent decree which will allow Google to settle the agency’s investigation. But as is usually the case, Google admits no liability. I always have to wonder why a company would pay millions and sometimes hundreds of millions to settle a claim if it was innocent of the charges made against it.
The probe was prompted by allegations that Google used computer code known as “cookies” to trick Apple’s Safari browser so Google could monitor users who had blocked such tracking. Google has said the tracking was inadvertent and that it collected no personal information like names, addresses or credit card data. But the tracking was done despite assurances that Safari could be set to protect users’ privacy and prompted an FTC probe into whether Google violated a consent decree signed last year. Google said then it would not misrepresent its privacy policies.
Google also faces potential sanctions from other governments. It is being investigated by the European Union to determine if the company complies with Europe’s stricter privacy laws. The top search engine provider is also the subject of a wide-ranging antitrust investigation by the FTC and European regulators over accusations that it manipulated search results to favor its own products. Google said the investigation was prompted by a 2009 help center web page that predated a change in Apple’s cookie-handling policy. A Google spokeswoman said in a statement that the company has “now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.”
Source: Claims Journal
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