Google will pay record $22.5 million over Safari tracking

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After being charged by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with misleading consumers by breaking Apple's user privacy settings in the Safari browser, Google will pay a record $22.5 million to settle the allegations.

This is considered the largest penalty imposed on a single company by the FTC, which has increased its efforts in protecting privacy online.

Google placed special tracking cookies on Safari, Apple's browser, which monitored activity and allowed it to serve targeted ads to users on its DoubleClick advertising network. But, this violated a previous privacy settlement between Google and the FTC, according to a news release by the agency.

A previous Google-FTC settlement, reached last October, blocked the company from distorting the way in which consumers could gain control over the collection of their information. The settlement was related to privacy missteps Google faced during the launch of its now defunct social networking and messaging tool, Buzz.

“No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by an FTC order 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,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in the release.

FTC commissioner J. Thomas Rosch was the lone dissenter on the 4-1 vote to approve the settlement. He said that the fine is too small considering the size of Google's annual profit and revenue.

“There is nothing to prevent future respondents with fewer resources than Google and with lower profiles than Google…from denying liability in the future too,” he wrote.

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