Google: "Don't be evil." However, it would appear that the Federal Trade Commission feels that Google might have overstepped that by a wee bit, okay, a large bit, judging by the size of the fine levied against the company over the Safari tracking incident. The FTC announced today that Google has agreed to pay $22.5 million to settle the claim, the largest fine ever levied by the FTC.
The FTC charges that Google "misrepresented to users of Apple Inc.'s Safari Internet browser that it would not place tracking 'cookies' or serve targeted ads to those users, violating an earlier privacy settlement between the company and the FTC." Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC:
The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order. No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.
Of course, for its part, Google has a differing opinion on the matter:
We 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.
While no company would like paying out money if it doesn't have to, Google is certainly in a better position to be paying fines such as this. CNET reports that during its last quarter, Google generated $2.8 billion in profit, plenty to cover the fine, and then some. Ironically, Google is trading up by about $1 following the news of the penalty.