FTC approves $22.5 million fine in Google privacy case

The search engine used specialized computer code to bypass privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser and track users’ online activity

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will levy a $22.5 million fine against Google Inc. to settle allegations that the search giant bypassed privacy settings on Apple Inc.’s Safari browser, according to Reuters.

The FTC reportedly voted to approve a consent decree, allowing Google to settle the six-month investigation without admitting liability. The agency’s inquiry dates back to February, when a Wall Street Journal report revealed that Google had used a computer code in its online ads to exploit a loophole in Safari’s privacy settings.

Although Safari typically blocks third-party tracking cookies, it does allow advertisers to install cookies if a user interacts with an ad. Google implemented a code that automatically made it look as though users were submitting online forms to advertisers, thereby enabling it to track users’ online activity for the next 12 to 24 hours.

Google maintained that the code simply allowed signed-in Google users on Safari to view personalized ads and content, and that it had never collected personal information. But the FTC wasn’t so easily dissuaded from its investigation, especially because Google had assured Safari users that, because of the browser’s settings, they did not need to opt out of tracking. Google has since disabled the code.

Read more at Reuters.

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Alanna Byrne

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