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Google to pay $22.5M fine over Safari privacy concerns

Google are set to pay a whopping $22.5 million fine to resolve concerns that they broke a privacy promise by secretly tracking millions of web surfers using Apple’s Safari browser.

The latest news is that the fine has yet to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission which oversees online privacy issues in America. If it is approved however by the five commissioners, the $22.5 million penalty would be the largest ever forced on a single company.

While this is a large amount of money, Google have $49 billion in their coffers, and will generate revenue this year around $46 billion.

Google have been dealing with quite a few concerns lately regarding their practices online and whether they are abusing their position on the internet to close down their competition.

Google sent out a statement yesterday, which read “We do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users.” They said that the tracking technology inserted into the Safari browser didn’t collect any personal data.

The FTC started an investigation five months ago when a researcher at Stanford University published a study that showed how Google had overridden Safari safeguards to prevent outside parties from monitoring web surfing activity without a user’s permission.

These cookies can help internet services and advertisers target marketing pitches based on an analysis of the interests implied by a person’s web surfing activity.

Once this manipulation was spotted and reported, Google removed it however it was too late. The bypassing of Safari protocols appeared to contradict a statement in Google’s online help center which assured users of Safari that their online activities wouldn’t be logged by Google.

The Telegraph add “The apparent contradiction between Google’s words and actions became the focal point of the FTC investigation. Google late last year had settled with the agency on another privacy case revolving around a now-defunct service, called Buzz, that exposed people’s email contacts when it debuted in early 2010.

The uproar over Buzz culminated in Google signing a 20-year consent decree that, among other things, included a company pledge not to mislead consumers about its privacy practices.

Each violation of the decree is subject to a daily fine of $16,000. The penalty in the proposed settlement of the Safari case doesn’t appear to be based on that formula, given that millions of people were using the browser for about four months between the time the Google signed the consent degree in October and the unauthorized tracking ceased in February.”

Kitguru says: Google under the spotlight again, for the wrong reasons.

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