Google Faces FTC's Largest Ever Fine Over Safari Cookie Debacle

Five months on from the Wall Street Journal spotting that Google was circumventing cookie privacy settings in Safari, the big G is now close to settling the matter with the FTC. There's one bitter pill that still remains to be swallowed, though: the WSJ reports that Google is set to pony up $22.5 million, the FTC's largest ever fine.

As a quick refresher, the original problem was a result of sneaky cookie tactics used by Google. In February, we wrote:

The WSJ explains how Google has developed code that installs cookies on a users' device-without their permission-from adverts contained in web pages. Once installed, however, those cookies have potentially allowed Google to track browsing across the majority of websites.

Research by the WSJ showed that the code was present in adverts on Fandango.com, Match.com, AOL.com, TMZ.com and UrbanDictionary.com, among others, and that it worked on both desktop and mobile versions of Safari...

The code in question stems from the development of Google+, being developed to skirt the way Safari blocked an original implementation of the "+1" button on third-party websites. Instead of directly using cookies, which Safari doesn't allow without user consent, the code made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google. Sneaky. Then, Google had free reign to add cookies-and track a user's browsing-without the user ever knowing.

Now, Google and the FTC are close to reaching an agreed settlement figure, reports the Journal. While the final sum is still to be approved by FTC commissioners, both the FTC and Google have in theory agreed to a fine of $22.5 million. If that figure gets the go-ahead, it will be the biggest ever issued by the FTC.

But while $22.5 million sounds like a lot, it's worth noting that Google made that much in revenue every 5 hours last year. Just how much of a deterrent is that, then? [Wall Street Journal via Verge]

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