Photo by Kimihiro Hoshino/AFP/GettyImages.
Google will reportedly pay $22.5 million to settle charges that it violated privacy agreements by secretly tracking millions of users of Apple’s Safari Web browser.
Sources familiar with Google’s negotiations over the charges brought by the Federal Trade Commission confirmed the Internet giant was close to settling, both the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal reported. The agreement is still pending approval by the FTC.
The multimillion-dollar fine would be the largest penalty ever imposed by the FTC on a single company. But, as the Journal points out, the sizable financial penalty is relatively insignificant for the company; last year Google earned that much every five hours. But Google’s willingness to settle at such a hefty sum does cast a shadow over the Internet giant’s trustworthiness for users.
Using a special code, Google tricked Apple’s Safari software to allow it to monitor the online activity of thousands of users that had blocked exactly that sort of tracking. Google, which disabled the mechanism when the Journal was investigating it in February, claimed that the tracking was inadvertent and didn’t harm users.
In a statement, Google claimed that the FTC investigation was on a help-center page published two years before the decree was signed, ensuring that the ad cookies have been removed and that the “collected no personal information” from the Safari browsers.
Google isn’t only in trouble in the United States, according to Reuters. The European Union is currently investigated the company’s privacy policies to ensure they comply with the stricter privacy laws across the Atlantic.