While the crown for paying the highest fine to FTC was previously held by ChoicePoint Inc, which paid $15 million over data breach, friendly Google is all set to break the record with a settlement of $22.5 million according to media sources. The settlement would be for charges of bypassing the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s Safari browser. According to Wall Street Journal, this would be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
Charges against Google involve using special ‘cookies’ to trick Apple’s Safari browser to allow Google to monitor users who clearly chose not to be tracked. After being exposed and contacted by the Wall Street Journal, Google became docile and said that it had disabled the code, and that the tracking was ‘inadvertent.’ Google also maintained that no personal information such as names or credit card data was collected. However, FTC began probing whether Google violated a consent decree signed last year in which Google had said it would not misrepresent privacy policies.
A Google spokeswoman made things clearer in an emailed statement and said “The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before our consent decree … We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.”
Other governments of the world are also investigating Google’s role in different matters, and at present the company is being investigated by the European Union to find out whether it is properly complying with Europe’s privacy laws. Google is also subject to a wide-ranging antitrust investigation by the FTC over accusations of Google manipulating search engine results to favor its own products.