Thursday, August 09, 2012
Google Agrees to Pay $22.5M for Apple Browser Breach
To paraphrase a song from several years ago, “Oops, you did it again.” Google will pay $22.5 million to settle allegations by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that it breached Apple’s Safari Internet browser to track individuals browsing behavior. To put the size of the penalty into perspective, at the end of the last fiscal year, Google had total cash of $41.7 billion. The penalty won’t put too large a dent in their cash.
According to the FTC, Google deceived consumers and violated terms of a consent decree signed with the commission in 2011 when it planted cookies on Safari, bypassing Apple software’s privacy settings. This allowed Google track users’ Internet browsing behavior. The FTC charged that Google's actions violated the decree that was to prevent Google from misrepresenting the extent of control that customers have over the collection of their information.
The FTC is empowered to levy penalties as large as $16,000 a day. Perhaps a larger and more appropriate penalty, $4.99 per user. In addition, force the little Android person to wear a cone of shame from Pixar’s “Up” and “Monster’s Inc.” for a year on the Google search site. Create a little cartoon app that causes the Android to jerk its head around when you type in either “cookie” or “squirrel”.
This is the largest fine the FTC has ever levied against a company. The FTC also ordered Google to disable all the tracking cookies. The FTC is giving a fair amount of time for Google to come into complete compliance Google has until February 2014 to do so.
“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,” stated FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. Other companies the FTC has entered into settlements on privacy allegations in the past include Facebook, Twitter Inc. and MySpace Inc.
“Trust no one” seems to be the operative phrase when it comes to protecting your personal privacy. Individuals should read up on how to turn off tracking in their web browser, both in Apple’s and other browsers.