Google to Pay Record Fine for Privacy Violations

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The FTC today announced that Google has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle privacy-related charges.

"The fine 'is the largest penalty the agency has ever obtained for a violation of a Commission order,' the FTC said on Thursday," writes Ars Technica's Jon Brodkin. "The commission also said Google is required to 'disable all the tracking cookies' that were at issue in the complaint. That part of the order is largely ceremonial, as Google already disabled the advertising cookies in February after claiming that they were spread by accident."

"Specifically, 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," AppleInsider reports. "It did so, the agency asserted, despite previous promises to Safari users that they would automatically be opted out of such tracking as a result of the default settings in Safari on Macs, iPhones and iPads."

"The FTC says it will continue to monitor Google to ensure that it does not engage in deceptive practices," writes The Los Angeles Times' Jessica Guynn. "Google has 19 years left on the 20-year settlement it reached last year that prevents the search giant from misrepresenting how it handles user information and requires Google to submit to regular privacy audits."

"The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order," FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "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."

"But considering 96 percent of Google’s revenue comes from online advertising, the FTC's fine was only a fraction of what it earns each year," writes ZDNet's Zack Whittaker. "Last year, Google earned more than $37.9 billion in revenue alone. According to ZDNet's editor-in-chief Larry Dignan: based on Google's Q2 sales (excluding traffic acquisition costs), $22.5 million amounts to about 5 hours of revenue."