NPR Story
2:09 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Google Expected To Pay Fine In Privacy Setting Case

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news. Google and the Federal Trade Commission are near a deal that could result the largest fine for privacy violations ever imposed by that agency.

NPR's Steve Henn has the story.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Jonathan Mayer, a computer science grad student at Stanford, discovered that Google was tracking millions of Apple computer users without their consent. The search giant was tricking Apple's Safari web browser into believing that these users were filling out web surveys that didn't actually exist. These fake interactions allowed Google to start placing cookies on the browser and selling targeted ads.

JONATHAN MAYER: This feature was not any sort of commonly accepted business practice - we only identified four companies that were doing it.

HENN: Mayer says Google was by far the biggest. He discovered this behavior just months after Google signed a consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission promising not to mislead Americas about its privacy policies.

Now, according to sources familiar with the investigation, Google has agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine.

Jeffrey Chester runs the Center for Digital Democracy - a privacy watchdog group.

JEFFREY CHESTER: The question is really whether this fine will really change Google's practices when it comes to privacy.

HENN: Even though this will be the largest civil penalty ever levied by the FTC, Google earns roughly that much money every four and a half hours. And the deal doesn't require Google to admit violating its consent decree or breaking any federal laws.

Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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