FTC hits Google with record $22.5 million fine

Google has been hit with a $22.5 million fine for its tracking user activity on Apple’s Safari browsers, the largest ever handed out by the Federal Trade Commission.

Although the fine is the largest handed out by the FTC, $22.5 million is unlikely to cause Google too much hardship, with the company making about that much in just a few hours.

The FTC slapped the search giant with the fine after being found guilty of allowing tracking cookies on Safari, even when users had selected a ‘do not track’ browser setting.  The cookies can then be used by Google to generate ad revenues based on sites users have visited, through targeted advertisements.  

According to the FTC, Google had violated a previous agreement to abide by rules that prevent companies from misleading net users about online privacy policies.

Google has now been ordered to pay the record civil penalty and to disable all unauthorised tracking cookies.

“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC, said.

“No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers,” he said, “or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.”   

But with Google under investigation antitrust both in the US and by the European Commission, the result comes at a bad time for the firm. The search giant maintains that the placing of cookies was done inadvertently.