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Google Fined $US22.5 Million For Apple Privacy Breach

Posted: August 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Apple, Google, Standout | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Google Fined $US22.5 Million For Apple Privacy Breach

GOOGLEThat behemoth that is Google has been fined $US22.5 million for violating the privacy of millions of Apple Safari browser users. Last October Google signed an agreement that included a pledge not to mislead consumers about privacy practices, oops.

In fining the behemoth the FTC – US Federal Trade Commission – said that Google had broken an agreement made with the commission in October 2011, Google had agreed not to place tracking cookies on or deliver targeted ads to Apple Safari users, but then went ahead and did so. The fine is the biggest imposed by the FTC against a company for violating a previous agreement with the Commission.

In a statemnet the FTC said that Google has agreed to pay the record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges.

“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.” ::::

Apple iPad - Google Search Using Apple Safari

Google was accused of using cookies to secretly track the habits of millions of people who used Apple’s Safari internet browser on iPhones and iPads. Google has said its tracking was not deliberate and it did not collect personal information such as names, addresses or credit card details. Google placed an advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network,’ The FTC said in it’s statement, “Google had previously told these users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking.” While Google agreed to the fine, it did NOT admit it had violated the earlier agreement.

Google has agreed to pay the fine, which is the largest penalty ever placed on a company for violating an FTC order. But it is still a drop in the bucket compared to Google’s second-quarter revenues of $US12.21 billion. Google generates billions of dollars in revenues annually from selling online advertising services, including the delivery of targeted ads online. Cookies are small pieces of computer text that are used to collect information from computers and can be used to serve targeted ads to consumers. By placing a tracking cookie on a user’s computer, an advertising network can collect information about the user’s web-browsing activities and use that information to serve online ads targeted to the user’s interests or for other purposes.

David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, acknowledged the penalty may seem small, but said it sends a clear message to protect privacy in the future. “We have Google under order for another 19 years … and if there’s further violations, one could anticipate that the Commission would insist on increasingly higher civil penalties,” Mr Vladeck said.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Google specifically told Safari users that because the Safari browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, as long as users do not change their browser settings, this setting “effectively accomplishes the same thing as [opting out of this particular Google advertising tracking cookie].”  In addition, Google represented that it is a member of an industry group called the Network Advertising Initiative, which requires members to adhere to its self-regulatory code of conduct, including disclosure of their data collection and use practices.

Companies such as Google rely on collecting user data for a large part of their revenue, but privacy advocates have argued that tech companies are generally not doing enough to safeguard customer privacy. In its complaint, the FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network, although Google had previously told these users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking, as a result of the default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads.


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source: ftc

source: reuters

source: afp

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