Although Google and the FTC staff have reportedly reached a $22.5 million dollar settlement, the largest for the federal agency, the FTC commissioners still need to sign off.
The FTC investigation started in March and everybody expected it to last for years. However, things have moved much more quickly than planned.
Google allegedly bypassed Safari’s privacy settings by exploiting a loophole. The browser has an option to disable third-party tracking cookies that advertisers use, but Google reportedly allowed DoubleClick (Google’s ad network) to install a temporary cookie.
As a result, if a user interacts with a DoubleClick ad, Safari allows DoubleClick to install the temporary cookie, which can then collect and track user’s information while they surf the Web.
Penalty and Other Charges
Although Google claims to have taken steps to remove the cookies, FTC regulators believe the company violated a consent decree signed in October. Under it, Google agreed not to misrepresent its privacy practices to consumers. Failing to adhere could lead to a fine of $16,000 per violation, per day.
In addition to this probe, Google also faces an FTC antitrust investigation. In that one, the agency is “examining whether the company unfairly increases advertising rates for competitors and ranks search results to favor its own businesses, such as its networking site Google+.”
- Google, FTC Near Settlement on Privacy [WSJ]
- FTC subpoenas Apple for iOS search data in antitrust probe of Google [Apple Insider]