Yesterday, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced that Google will pay a $22.5 million penalty to settle a privacy case related to tracking cookies in Apple’s Safari browser. This is the largest fine a single company has ever had to pay related to an FTC settlement.
While the fine will hardly make a dent in Google’s earnings, and is considerably lower than the $500 million Google had to pay to the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies over drug ads, the FTC is sure proud of its work in bringing Google to justice.
The Weekly Standard reports that FTC lawyer Megan Gray “bragged about her performance” in an email to friends and colleagues, which allegedly said:
This is also my roundabout way of letting folks know of my new position, since I did not previously have a chance to tell many people (suffice to say, I’ve had my nose to the grindstone since I started five months ago). Upon my arrival, I was made first-chair trial counsel in the case against Google for privacy violations under the comprehensive Consent Order that became effective last year. With a fantastic team working with me, we were able to obtain a $22,500,000 million settlement, the FTC’s largest ever — we officially announced the case and settlement today. I will be continuing as lead enforcer on the Consent Order, but hopefully I will have a chance to come up for air now and resume a quasi-normal life. I hope we have a chance to reconnect in the foreseeable future!
The FTC posted this message on its Facebook page from Gray and Megan Bartley:
In the comment thread of the post, the FTC says, “Google is paying with black eyes as well as greenbacks. We will continue watching them and there will be increasing deterrence as needed.”
Some of Google’s opponents aren’t quite as thrilled with the FTC’s performance. A WebProNews, for example, commented, “That’s all! They prob made 1 billion from it, so they [are] laughing at [the] FTC. It should be a fine that is equal to what they made by their crime.”
Direct Marketing News shares the following statement from a Google spokesperson: “The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy. We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.”
Under the settlement terms, Google is also required to participate in third-party privacy audits.