Google to pay $22.5 million to settle charges over bypassing privacy settings of millions of Apple users

“Google Inc is close to a deal to pay $22.5 million to settle charges related to its surreptitious bypassing of the privacy settings of millions of Apple Inc. users, according to officials briefed on the settlement terms,” Julia Angwin reports for The Wall Street Journal.

“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,” Angwin reports. “While the fine likely will represent only a tiny portion of Google’s revenues—last year, the Internet giant raked in that much cash roughly every five hours or so—it counts among a series of negative reports about Google’s privacy practices that could undermine users’ trust in its services.”

Angwin reports, “The current charges involve Google’s use of special computer code to trick Apple’s Safari Web-browsing software into letting it monitor users that had blocked such tracking. Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Journal, which wrote about Google’s practices in February. Google officials say tracking of Apple users was inadvertent and didn’t cause any harm to consumers. But Google’s actions appeared to contradict previous statements it had made assuring Apple users that they could rely on Safari’s privacy settings to block unwanted tracking… Separately, a group of U.S. state attorneys general are investigating Google’s circumvention of Safari’s privacy settings. State attorneys general can have the ability to levy fines of up to $5,000 per violation. “The investigation is ongoing,” said a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A slap on the wrist and a half-hearted one at that. Largest penalty ever? Meh. It’s like fining any one of us $22.50 and calling it a day. No deterrent whatsoever.

Related articles:
Apple’s anti-user tracking policy has mobile advertisers scrambling – May 9, 2012
Google said to be negotiating amount of U.S. FTC fine over Apple Safari breach – May 4, 2012
Cookies and privacy, Google and Safari – February 25, 2012
Obama’s privacy plan puts pinch on Google – February 24, 2012
Obama administration outlines online privacy guidelines – February 23, 2012
Google sued by Apple Safari-user for bypassing browser privacy – February 21, 2012
Google responds to Microsoft over privacy issues, calls IE’s cookie policy ‘widely non-operational’ – February 21, 2012
Google’s tracking of Safari users could prompt FTC investigation – February 18, 2012
WSJ: Google tracked iPhone, iPad users, bypassing Apple’s Safari browser privacy settings; Microsoft denounces – February 17, 2012


    1. It would amount to less than $1 each. They need to add about 2 “0”s to the fine amount.

      “…could undermine users’ trust in its services.” Trust Google? Yeah, right!

  1. Slap on the wrist, more like a tickle on the wrist with a feather and a wink and a nod.

    The only hope for justice now is a class action suit. I say again, Google should have to pay each of us iOS and OSX users the equivalent of all the money they earned in ad dollars through stealing our data against our will. That would amount to Billions of dollars! That is Billions with a capital B.

  2. This isn’t even close to being a punishment. If anything, it green-lights Gurgle to continue doing this sort of malbusiness.

    The only time I use Gurgle for anything is when I access Maps on my iOS devices, which is rare. For search, I always DuckDuckGo it.

  3. We need reform in the laws regulating corporations:
    1- Congress should not be able to limit the fines imposed by regulatory agencies, which is usually the case when slap o the wrist fines are imposed.
    2- CEOs and other executives that knowingly authorize illegal activity should be made criminally liable for the companies they run.
    3- Serial offenders should be subject to a corporate death penalty- liquidation.

    1. Well, I wish that was happening. I can’t see why I cannot customize my home screen on my iPad. People like choices.

      To have these big icons clutter up my home screen reminds me of Windows.

      And then all those folders called Games…

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