Google may pay $22.5 million penalty for ignoring Safari Do Not Track
Google may be nearing a settlement of $22.5 million with the FTC for its willful circumvention of Do Not Track settings in order to keep serving ads, the Wall Street Journal reports. Because Google violated its consent decree with the US government that it would not misrepresent privacy settings to its users, it will pay a penalty of $16,000 for every day that it used its DNT workaround.
Safari's DNT typically blocks third-party cookies in order to keep users from being tracked by the cookie owners. Google got around this by using an exploit in Safari that allowed a cookie to be written with a blank form submitted while a webpage loads (part of the code Google uses to place its +1 button in advertisements). Google claimed that the circumvention wasn't intentional, and that it only happened for users who were signed in to their Google accounts and opted in to personalized ads. Google's exploit of Safari's flaw was not discovered until February 2012.
Google promptly created an update to WebKit that closed the loophole, and stated that it didn't cause any harm to consumers. Still, the FTC is focused on how the cookie creation contradicted a statement on one of Google's help center pages from 2009. The page promised that users could count on privacy settings in Safari to keep cookies off their computers. Google has updated the page, according to the WSJ.
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