It looks like Google is about to pay the biggest fine ever to be issued to a company (at least one company) by the FTC. That is if a Wall Street Journal report is correct. The publication is citing officials briefed on the settlement terms, so it sounds like a reality.
The $22.5 million penalty is the result of a settlement over privacy issues related to what came to be known as Safari-gate.
Earlier this year, it was discovered that Google had exploited a loophole in Safari that enabled the company to track users’ browsing habits. The exploit allowed advertisers to set third party cookies, despite the browser’s privacy settings.
The whole thing was discovered by a Stanford researcher, and was found to have occurred in Safari on iOS devices, as well as desktop machines.
About a month after the story broke, Google reportedly said, “It’s important to remember that we didn’t anticipate this would happen, and we have been removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers.”
The FTC has yet to officially comment on the settlement.
Previous speculation had Google’s fine at around $10 million, but even at two and a half times greater, the fine is pretty small potatoes for Google. Last year, Google had to forfeit a whopping $500 million to the Department of Justice as the result of a settlement related to illegal drug ads (the money was recently divided up among various law enforcement agencies). According to the Journal, Google makes the cost of the FTC fine in about 5 hours.