Earlier this year, news broke that Google and other online advertisers were bypassing Safari privacy settings to store tracking cookies on a user’s device. The company has, since then, stopped this practice.
Today, the Federal Trade Commission, as expected, announced that Google has agreed to pay a fine of $22.5 million to settle the charges. The fine is the largest ever penalty levied by the FTC for violation of an FTC order.
FTC’s release quotes its chairman, Jon Leibowitz, on the announcement:
“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order. No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.”
The announcement notes, though, that the settlement doesn’t mean that Google’s admitting to the violation of any laws.
For a period of several months in 2011 and 2012, Google took advantage of a loophole in the way Safari handles cookies, and placed cookies from its DoubleClick advertising network on user’s devices. Safari, by default, disallows third-party websites from storing cookies, and Google, despite claiming to comply with these settings, placed tracking cookies on user’s devices.
The FTC Tech blog has a more detailed and technical description of Google’s violation.