updated 09:16 pm EST, Sun November 18, 2012
$22.5 million settlement could resolve cookie suit
At least one of Google's conflicts with the Federal Trade Commission may be close to a finish, as a San Francisco judge has signaled that she may approve a $22.5 million settlement over Google's placement of cookies on Apple's Safari browser. Google agreed to pay the fine in August of this year, and now U.S. District Judge Susan Illston has given a preliminary view that the $22.5 million fine will be adequate. A final ruling is expected soon.
The case emerges from charges that, between 2011 and 2012, Google used a tracking cookie that was placed on Safari users browsers if they visited websites using Google's DoubleClick ad network. Google had promised Safari users that it would honor the do-not-track feature that is built into Safari, but the company used a loophole to install temporary cookies that fed information back to DoubleClick.
Under the agreement, Google would pay the $22.5 million fine and expire the cookies on Safari user browsers. The company would not admit any wrongdoing.
The fine is the first that the FTC has levied for an alleged violation of Internet privacy.
While this case is separate from another FTC proceeding, which may see the regulatory body filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google due to the way it ranks search results for competitors' products, observers note that it may provide a blueprint for the procedure that will be used to resolve that case.
Update: According to the Associated Press, the U.S. District Judge Susan Illston has approved the fine in a San Francisco federal court late Friday. The ruling also confirms it as the largest penalty the FTC has ever handed to a single company.