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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) will pay a civil penalty of $22.5 million to settle charges that it bypassed the privacy settings of customers using Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Safari browser. Google will not have to admit any liability, according to an anonymous source, as per the terms of the Federal Trade Commission’s decision.
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Google was accused of using computer code known as “cookies” to trick Safari, allowing Google to monitor users who had blocked such tracking. Google has said the tracking was inadvertent, and that it collected to personal information like names, addresses, or credit card data, but the tracking was done despite assurances that Safari could be set to protect users’ privacy.
News of the workaround prompted an FTC investigation into whether the search company violated a consent decree signed last year. Google said then that it would not misrepresent its privacy policies.
Google still faces potential sanctions from other governments — it is still being investigated by the European Union to determine whether it complies with Europe’s stricter privacy laws.
Google is also the subject an a wide-ranging antitrust investigation being conducted by the FTC and European regulators over allegations that it manipulated its search results to favor its own products.
Google declined to comment on the settlement but said that the 2009 help center page that prompted the investigation had been changed. The page predated a change in Apple’s cookie-handling policy, causing the “inadvertent” tracking. Google has taken steps to remove all ad cookies, a spokesman said in a statement.
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