Google fined $22.5 million over Safari tracking

Last week, unconfirmed rumors hit the Internet that claimed Google was going to be fined by the Federal Trade Commission over tracking users of the Safari web browser. Today, the FTC confirmed it would fine Google $22.5 million for these actions.

In an FTC press release, the government agency said that Google, " ... placed an advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google's DoubleClick advertising network." during parts of 2011 and 2012. The FTC added that Google told its Safari customers that they would be able to avoid being tracked because of the "default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads."

In a statement to News.com, Google said that it has now " ... taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers."

While a fine of $22.5 million may seem tiny to a company the size of Google, the FTC claims that the amount is the largest fine ever created for the violation of an FTC order.  The agency said that Google violated a settlement reached in 2011 " .. which barred Google from – among other things – misrepresenting the extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information."

Source: FTC

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20 Comments

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Ace said,
Google will make that money back in a few minutes.

Apple will make that money in a few seconds.

/facepalm

I'm confused. How is it Google's fault that Safari doesn't handle its cookie settings correctly? Sounds like the browser has a bug, instead of Google doing something nefarious.

spacer said,
I'm confused. How is it Google's fault that Safari doesn't handle its cookie settings correctly? Sounds like the browser has a bug, instead of Google doing something nefarious.

All software has bugs that are exploitable, it's an unavoidable fact of software development. But rather than report the bug to Apple, Google decided to exploit it to place a cookie on your computer that they could use to track you.

spacer said,
I'm confused. How is it Google's fault that Safari doesn't handle its cookie settings correctly? Sounds like the browser has a bug, instead of Google doing something nefarious.

They deliberately exploited that loop in Safari, therefore it constitutes a problem.

spacer said,
I'm confused. How is it Google's fault that Safari doesn't handle its cookie settings correctly? Sounds like the browser has a bug, instead of Google doing something nefarious.

It's not about getting around Safari's cookie handling, it's about Google's claims that they would not place the cookies. Had they not made any claims about not placing cookies on Safari's default settings I don't think this would have gone through.

spacer said,
I'm confused. How is it Google's fault that Safari doesn't handle its cookie settings correctly? Sounds like the browser has a bug, instead of Google doing something nefarious.

Last paragraph:
the article said,

The agency said that Google violated a settlement reached in 2011 " .. which barred Google from - among other things - misrepresenting the extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information."

seems like it's not just because Google exploited the loophole, it's because they "misrepresented the extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information." (read: they lied to their users when they said we're not collecting anything)

spacer said,
I'm confused. How is it Google's fault that Safari doesn't handle its cookie settings correctly? Sounds like the browser has a bug, instead of Google doing something nefarious.

Seriously?

If this was the EU fining Google you can guarantee this topic would be filled with comments about the EU being broke and coming up with excuses to fine companies to balances its books. As this is about the US I somehow doubt we'll see the same thing.

Regardless, a $22.5m fine is incredibly small - even though it's supposedly the "largest fine ever" for an FTC violation - and will do nothing to prevent businesses from adopting such policies in the future.

theyarecomingforyou said,
If this was the EU fining Google you can guarantee this topic would be filled with comments about the EU being broke and coming up with excuses to fine companies to balances its books. As this is about the US I somehow doubt we'll see the same thing.

Regardless, a $22.5m fine is incredibly small - even though it's supposedly the "largest fine ever" for an FTC violation - and will do nothing to prevent businesses from adopting such policies in the future.

Oh please. I like much of what you post, but that's baloney and you know it. Google was caught red-handed and all, in what to me feels like a clear cut case, no debates required. In the past, people had issues with Microsoft being hit for including things on their own operating system and the like. That is something people can debate, and where some of that annoyance with the EU stems.

This article leaves little to debate beyond how much Google should be penalized on this one, but that's about it. Please don't make this another petty US vs. EU battle...

theyarecomingforyou said,
If this was the EU fining Google you can guarantee this topic would be filled with comments about the EU being broke and coming up with excuses to fine companies to balances its books. As this is about the US I somehow doubt we'll see the same thing.

Nope.

theyarecomingforyou said,
If this was the EU fining Google you can guarantee this topic would be filled with comments about the EU being broke and coming up with excuses to fine companies to balances its books. As this is about the US I somehow doubt we'll see the same thing.

Regardless, a $22.5m fine is incredibly small - even though it's supposedly the "largest fine ever" for an FTC violation - and will do nothing to prevent businesses from adopting such policies in the future.

The EU has fined Microsoft $2 billion, the US gov't has fined Google $22.5 million. $2 billion will go a long way into helping the bottom line, not much, but it will help. When the US gov't owes $15 trillion, $22.5 million is nothing, it is 0.0002% of the total debt. The gov't spends $22.5 million in under 4 minutes (at $6 million per minute).

If you cannot tell the difference between $2 billion and $22.5 million, then....

It is good the fine was only $22.5 million. FTC is not allowed to give out fines based on the money a company has. Had they fined Google, lets say $1 billion, FTC would have to place similar fines on others. It would devastating for smaller companies to the point of running them into the ground.

ILikeTobacco said,
It is good the fine was only $22.5 million. FTC is not allowed to give out fines based on the money a company has. Had they fined Google, lets say $1 billion, FTC would have to place similar fines on others. It would devastating for smaller companies to the point of running them into the ground.

Well no, because going by that logic then the smaller companies would get smaller fines...

mikeyx12 said,

Well no, because going by that logic then the smaller companies would get smaller fines...

No, he's saying if they find them 1bil now, because of the laws, the next company would need to get a similar fine.