Last month, it was reported that Google was about to pay a $22.5 million penalty, courtesy of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, for privacy issues in what became known as “Safari-gate”. Today, that settlement has been officially confirmed, as the FTC has put out a statement discussing it.
The fine is the largest that any single company has ever had to pay as the result of violation of a commission order.
“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “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 FTC has also ordered Google to disable all tracking cookies it had said it wouldn’t place on consumers’ computers.
In its initial complaint, the FTC charged that Google had placed a certain advertising cookie on Safari users’ devices, who visited sites in Google’s DoubleClick ad network, though Google had reportedly told users they would automatically be opted out of the tracking, as a result of Safari’s default settings.
The FTC found that Google misrepresented its privacy assurances, and placed the cookie on the devices anyway. The FTC said, “Google exploited an exception to the browser’s default setting to place a temporary cookie from the DoubleClick domain. Because of the particular operation of the Safari browser, that initial temporary cookie opened the door to all cookies from the DoubleClick domain, including the Google advertising tracking cookie that Google had represented would be blocked from Safari browsers.”
The FTC also found that Google had violated a previous settlement it reached with the agency back in 2011, related to Google Buzz.