FTC’s $22.5 Million Fine Of Google Approved
A federal judge on Friday approved a legal settlement in which Google agreed to pay a record fine of $22.5 million to resolve federal allegations of privacy violations, despite objections from a consumer group that argues the penalty is too weak.
Hours after holding a brief hearing in San Francisco’s federal court, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled that the negotiated agreement is “fair, adequate and reasonable.”
The Federal Trade Commission had touted the penalty, negotiated last summer, as the largest fine it has ever assessed in a case of this kind. The settlement stems from an FTC investigation which found that Google’s advertising service used software “cookies” to track the Web pages visited by people who used Apple’s Safari Web browser, after promising that it would not do so.
Google, which has maintained that the tracking was inadvertent, did not admit to any legal violation but agreed to disable the cookies. Attorneys for both Google and the FTC spoke in favor of the settlement in court, while an attorney for the nonprofit Consumer Watchdog group opposed the agreement as ineffective.
The fine, although large by the federal government’s standards, is a drop in the bucket for Google, which made nearly $38 billion in revenue last year.
“We were disappointed, but think we made important points that will have an impact on how similar cases are dealt with in the future,” said John Simpson, director of the Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project.