Google To Pay $22.5 Million in FTC Case Over Safari User Tracking

Posted by at 8:40 am on August 10, 2012

Google has agreed to a pay a $22.5 million penalty to settle its tracking dispute with the US Federal Trade Commission, according to a press release from the agency. The payout was previously rumored but has only now been confirmed. The penalty is said to be the largest ever for violation of an FTC order; as a condition of the settlement, Google must disable any tracking cookies it said it wouldn’t install on customers’ devices.

The FTC charges that for several months spanning 2011 and 2012, a tracking cookie was created in Apple’s Safari browser if a person visited a website using Google’s DoubleClick ad network, even though Google had promised Safari users they would be automatically exempt because of Safari’s default blocking of third-party cookies. The feature “effectively accomplishes the same thing” as opting out, the company said at the time. A loophole, though, allowed Google to install a temporary cookie that opened the gates to any DoubleClick cookie.

The move violated an earlier settlement from October 2011, which banned Google from misrepresenting how much control the public can exercise over personal data collection. That case was related to Google’s now-defunct Buzz social network.

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