C is for cookie – and costly – for Google

FTC levels largest fine ever on Google.

Google may know more about your personal web surfing habits than you had ever thought. But now the company has to pay the price – literally.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission recently fined Google about $22.5 million for gathering more information from Safari users than it should have.

Mac users received some startling news in February of this year. Then, Stanford graduate student Jonathan Mayer discovered Google bypassing privacy settings in the Safari internet browser. The company had placed cookies tracking web habits for its advertising use.

Google told PCWorld that it seeks to maintain personal privacy, saying “we do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users. The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy. We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.”

With the fine, the FTC sends a strong message about privacy, as The Wall Street Journal reports this is the largest fine ever for a single company.

“This is a significant fine by the FTC,” Jeffrey Chester, the Center for Digital Democracy’s executive director, said to Bloomberg News. The center is a Washington-based privacy advocacy organization.

Google has found itself in the privacy hot seat before. Last year it settled with the FTC regarding allegations it violated user privacy with Google Buzz.

In addition, politicians in the United Kingdom have targeted Google for gathering personal data via its Street View vehicles, according to PCWorld.

What do you think of this ruling? Was the FTC too hard or too soft on Google? How can you create layered security to safeguard your private info?

Scott Cornell

When he’s not knee deep in blogging and all things tech, Scott spends his free time playing ultimate Frisbee and watching foreign films. An expert in emerging tech trends, Scott always has his ear to ground for breaking news related to IT security.