Google Might be Fined For Bypassing Safari Privacy Settings

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A couple of months agoWSJ reported that Google, along with a few other advertising companies, used a loophole in mobile Safari to bypass the default privacy settings and track browsing habits of users. (Google has, since, stopped using this loophole.)

Mercury News now follows up with a report that says the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is investigating Google’s actions, which may lead to a fine.

This report comes just days after Google was fined a sum of $25,000 by the FCC for not cooperating with a federal investigation looking into Google’s Street View cars sniffing data off unencrypted Wi-Fi networks.

FTC’s investigation results would be out within the next 30 days. Mercury News reports:

The FTC investigation focuses on whether Google violated the terms of an existing settlement involving privacy problems with its ill-fated “Buzz” social network in 2010, and could carry sanctions as large as $16,000 per violation per day, adding up to a penalty that could dwarf the fine imposed by the FCC.

[…]

The sharing of private user data with third parties is a “litmus test” for the FTC in determining whether a violation has occurred, according sources familiar with the agency’s thinking. It may be difficult for Google to prove that no personal data was shared, if the software “cookies” implanted in Safari users’ browsers allowed Google to sell advertising that was better targeted and therefore more valuable.

Under terms of the Buzz settlement, Google agreed to comply with outside reviews of its privacy policies for the next 20 years, which would allow the FTC make significant progress in the investigation in a short span of time.

In a statement given to both CNet and Mercury News Google defended itself, saying that it didn’t intend to track users, and said that the company would “cooperate with any officials who have questions.”

You can check out this post to find out if you were tracked.

Also read: Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, calls out Apple and Facebook as the biggest threats to the open web.