Google has made a lot of headlines recently; first in a positive light for introducing Vanity URL’s, and now in a somewhat negative light for having to pay a penalty to the Federal Trade Commission for violating the privacy rules of its users.
Google has been forced to agree on paying a lump sum penalty of $22.5 million to the Federal Trade Commission as it violated the privacy of the all the users of Apple’s Safari browser via their cookies. This is one of the largest fines ever paid by Google and it is considered to be the worst violation of orders laid down to them. However, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said that her order is procedurally and substantively fair and that it is also reasonable and adequate.
Upon accepting the agreement, Google will need to disable all tracking cooking that was placed on Apple’s Safari users’ computers and ensure that all of these are gone by February 2014. Google did deny wrongdoing, saying that they didn’t anticipate that this would happen. The breach was exposed in February 2012. However they did agree to pay the settlement and to remove the cookies.
According to the FTC, Google falsely told Safari users that their tracking cookies will not be placed on their computer devices. Due to this fact, Google violated the privacy agreement which it entered into with the Federal Trade Commission; as per the agreement, Google now needs to disable all the cookies which were placed by them on the devices of all the Safari users who were affected by this.
Google Got Off too Easily
Some people still feel that Google came off too easily. Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog suggests that the FTC’s investigation can definitely be more aggressive. They feel that a stronger message should be sent to future situations. The FTC has investigated Google for more than 20 months. The court did rule that there are no merits to challenge this case.
This penalty will ensure that all companies, big and small, abide by the rules of the Federal Trade Commission and it’s a friendly reminder that they need to adhere to the privacy rules towards their users and clients. In case they fail to do so, similar penalties might come their way in the near future. Even though some feel that the penalty for Google wasn’t harsh enough this is a good starting point to show companies that they should tread carefully to avoid penalties in future.
The charge which was made towards Google stated that Google purposefully and intentionally violated the privacy settlement which was entered into with the FTC, by placing the cookies for tracking users on Apple’s Safari web browser. Over and above this fine, Google faces lawsuits from users who were badly affected and upset due to the practices of the company. But in spite of the fine, one question still comes to mind: Was this fine fair enough and will it stop this kind of behavior from Google and others?