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Federal Trade Commission Fines Google $22.5 Million for Safari Privacy Violations (The New York Times/Bits Blog)
The Federal Trade Commission fined Google $22.5 million on Thursday to settle charges that it had bypassed privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser to be able to track users of the browser and show them advertisements, and violated an earlier privacy settlement with the agency. The fine is the largest civil penalty ever levied by the commission, which has been cracking down on tech companies for privacy violations and is also investigating Google for antitrust violations. San Francisco Chronicle “The record-setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “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.” Reuters Companies such as Google and Facebook rely on collecting user data for a large part of their revenue, but lawmakers and privacy advocates have argued that tech companies are generally not doing enough to safeguard customer privacy. Both Google, the world’s No. 1 search engine, and Facebook, the No. 1 social networking site, last year agreed to 20 years of audits to ensure consumers’ privacy after the FTC found they had engaged in deceptive privacy practices. Wired Safari, which accounts for about 6 percent of desktop browsing and more than 50 percent of mobile browsing, is the only major browser to block so-called third-party cookies by default. When you visit a website, all browsers by default, including Safari, allow that site to put a small tracking file on your computer, which allows the site to identify a unique user, track what they’ve done and remember settings. PC Magazine Rumors of the $22.5 million settlement first cropped up in June, but the issue dates back to February. At that point, a Stanford University graduate student, Jonathan Mayer, released a report that accused Google and three other ad networks of side-stepping the privacy settings on Apple’s Safari browser to track usage on iPhones and Macs without permission. Read more