Google set to pay record $22.5M fine for violating Apple users' privacy

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Google is expected to pay a $22.5 million fine, the largest in the history of the Federal Trade Commission, for bypassing the privacy settings of users of Apple's Safari Web browser.

Google is "close" to the settlement terms, officials familiar with the deal told The Wall Street Journal. The FTC has charged Google of tricking the Safari browser into accepting an advertising "cookie" file that allowed the company to track people's online activities, even if the user had disabled such tracking.

"The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page," Google said in a statement. "We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies."

The search company has said the tracking of Safari users was inadvertent, and no harm was caused to consumers. But the FTC still believes that Google violated a 20-year deal the two entities signed last October, in which Google agreed to not misrepresent its privacy practices to consumers.

The deal between Google and the FTC amounts to a $16,000 fine per violation, per day. Noting that the FTC is a "relatively small federal agency," the Journal said the anticipated $22.5 million fine will be the largest ever imposed by the commission on a single corporation.

The FTC previously charged Google with using deceptive tactics when it launched its "Buzz" social network. That led to Google signing the consent decree, in which the company agreed to enact a number of privacy protecting measures.



Word first surfaced this May that the FTC was set to fine Google "tens of millions" of dollars for bypassing Safari privacy settings.

Google's cookie strategy would exploit a loophole in Safari, allowing an advertiser to place a cookie if the user interacted with an ad. Some ads placed by DoubleClick, which Google owns, would automatically send an invisible form to make it appear the user was interacting with an advertisement, which prompted Safari to allow DoubleClick to install a temporary cookie on the user's computer.

Apple was also subpoenaed by the FTC in March of this year as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation by the commission against Google. The FTC said it is "examining whether the company unfairly increases advertising rates for competitors and ranks search results to favor its own businesses, such as its networking site Google+."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 63
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member
    Serves the consumer right for clicking on a google product
    ;-)
  • Reply 2 of 63
    Ouch!

    I'm glad to see our governing bodies actually taking a measurable stance in defense of our privacy.

    Hopefully this will send a clear message.
  • Reply 3 of 63
    schwabschwab Posts: 1member


    from the Wall Street Journal Online July 10th:


     


    "While the fine likely will represent only a tiny portion of Google's revenues—last year, the Internet giant raked in that much cash roughly every five hours or so—it counts among a series of negative reports about Google's privacy practices that could undermine users' trust in its services."

  • Reply 4 of 63
    red oakred oak Posts: 929member
    The FTC should double the fine to $45 million for Google's lie that this is about a 2009 Help Page

    It just never stops with these guys. Unbelievable
  • Reply 5 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,361member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Red Oak View Post



    The FTC should double the fine to $45 million for Google's lie that this is about a 2009 Help Page

    It just never stops with these guys. Unbelievable


    Actually I think it was about Google misstating their privacy policy as it applied to Safari settings. It doesn't mean that bypassing Safari settings was proper in the first place, but that's not what the FTC fined Google for afaik.

  • Reply 6 of 63


    Nothing surprises from Google Spyware Inc. 

  • Reply 7 of 63
    rtm135rtm135 Posts: 310member
    How is this DOING NO EVIL, Google??
  • Reply 8 of 63
    hittrj01hittrj01 Posts: 753member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Andysol View Post



    Serves the consumer right for clicking on a google product

    ;-)


    Hate to break it to you, but Google has a presence on nearly all of the most popular sites out there whether it's by way of ads, services, analytics, whatever. Good luck getting away from them completely.

  • Reply 9 of 63
    hittrj01hittrj01 Posts: 753member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dpnorton82 View Post



    Ouch!

    I'm glad to see our governing bodies actually taking a measurable stance in defense of our privacy.

    Hopefully this will send a clear message.


    Measurable stance? Larry Page probably pulled this out of his wallet and paid the courts in cash.

  • Reply 10 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,361member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Andysol View Post



    Serves the consumer right for clicking on a google product

    ;-)


    Apple's new partner Facebook also uses (used) the same bypass exploit to get around user settings.


    http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/google-and-facebook-bypassing-safari-security-1064088


     


    Google got fined for misrepresenting that if Safari users had the default setting "block all 3rd -party cookies" then Google's plug-in to block those cookies wasn't needed since Safai would already do that. It wasn't true, whether by design or intent. Personally I suspect intentionally misstated. But the fine was not for actually bypassing Safari user settings. I guess the FTC is OK with that and Facebook, assuming they never changed it, and others can continue on with the bypass exploit. 

  • Reply 11 of 63
    rot'napplerot'napple Posts: 1,839member
    Wait... As an Apple user whose privacy was potentially violated, it's the government who reaps the reward of the 22 Mil? Where's my cut and the rest of Apple users cut?
    /
    /
    /
  • Reply 12 of 63
    ghostface147ghostface147 Posts: 1,629member
    Where is my cut??
  • Reply 13 of 63

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post



    Wait... As an Apple user whose privacy was potentially violated, it's the government who reaps the reward of the 22 Mil? Where's my cut and the rest of Apple users cut?

    /

    /

    /


     


     


    The government is of the people.  The people received the money.  But now, given the finding of fact by the FTC, maybe a class action suit will be filed for any special damages that specific people suffered.

  • Reply 14 of 63


    Whats the FCC charging facebook and the other 20+ companies that did the same thing?

  • Reply 15 of 63
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Rot'nApple View Post



    Wait... As an Apple user whose privacy was potentially violated, it's the government who reaps the reward of the 22 Mil? Where's my cut and the rest of Apple users cut?

    /

    /

    /




    Your cut is being used to pay the salaries of the Judges who are having to deal with the various Apple - Samsung disputes. ;-)


     


    The fine isn't really big enough to bother Google but the damage to their image will be far greater and richly deserved.

  • Reply 16 of 63
    markbyrnmarkbyrn Posts: 653member


    But Google just wants everything to be open


     


    google-is-watching.png

  • Reply 17 of 63
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,675member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post


    Apple's new partner Facebook also uses (used) the same bypass exploit to get around user settings.


    http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/google-and-facebook-bypassing-safari-security-1064088


     


    Google got fined for misrepresenting that if Safari users had the default setting "block all 3rd -party cookies" then Google's plug-in to block those cookies wasn't needed since Safai would already do that. It wasn't true, whether by design or intent. Personally I suspect intentionally misstated. But the fine was not for actually bypassing Safari user settings. I guess the FTC is OK with that and Facebook, assuming they never changed it, and others can continue on with the bypass exploit. 



     


    You should be fined for misrepresenting why they got fined. (And for making the argument that since someone else was doing it, that makes it ok. Oh, sure, you'll deny that's what you meant, but there is no other rational way to interpret that comment, other than that you got in a little Apple mudslinging at the same time.)


     


    They got fined because they violated a consent decree, a legally binding agreement, where they promised not to violate users' privacy or lie about the fact that they were violating users' privacy. So, it's not just that Google was violating users' privacy with black hat ("evil") exploits, it's that they lied ("evil") about it, and broke a legally binding promise ("evil") not to violate users' privacy or lie about it. In other words, because they were deceitful & dishonest, and violated what is essentially a court order -- they lied, cheated and broke the law... again.


     


    "Inadvertent." That's a funny choice of characterization of this particular privacy and consent decree violation. by Google. We all remember when they claimed the Street View data collection was "inadvertent", and then we found out that not only was it not, but that they lied to regulators about the extent of it and exactly what they collected.


     


    Google has shown themselves, time and again, to be one of the most dishonest companies most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Lie, cheat, steal... do any evil. That pretty much sums them up. No respect for users, no respect for privacy, no respect for the law.

  • Reply 18 of 63
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    hittrj01 wrote: »
    Hate to break it to you, but Google has a presence on nearly all of the most popular sites out there whether it's by way of ads, services, analytics, whatever. Good luck getting away from them completely.

    I have found escaping Google's grasp to be quite easy.


    Calendars, Contacts, Email:
    iCloud

    Search Engine:
    Safari>Preferences>General>Default Search Engine

    Do Not Track (OS X 10.7 Lion):
    Safari>Preferences>Advanced>"Show Develop menu in menu bar"

    Do Not Track (OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion):
    Safari>Preferences>Privacy>"Website Tracking: Ask websites not to track me"

    Install Safari extensions to block adware, options include:
    Adblock
    Cookie Stumbler
    Do Not Track Plus
    Ghostery

    If still concerned a firewall may also be used, the following is recommended:
    Little Snitch
  • Reply 19 of 63
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,361member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Techstalker View Post


    Whats the FCC charging facebook and the other 20+ companies that did the same thing?



    Nothing as the fine wasn't for any privacy violations. As I said earlier, the FTC is apparently OK with working around user's Safari settings, at least not going after anyone for doing so. The fine was for Google's privacy page statement highlighted in the article.

  • Reply 20 of 63
    macbook promacbook pro Posts: 1,605member
    anonymouse wrote: »
    Google has shown themselves, time and again, to be one of the most dishonest companies most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Lie, cheat, steal... do any evil. That pretty much sums them up. No respect for users, no respect for privacy, no respect for the law.

    Google's mission statement is: "Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful." While Google's mission statement alone isn't troublesome, Google's collection of personal information is quite troublesome because Google's business model is the aggregation of user's personal information in order to target advertising to users. Thus, Google has far more personal information about users than governments or other businesses have about consumers.



    * Google gathers details of how you used their services, such as your search queries (1)
    * Google tracks cookies that may uniquely identify your browser or your Google Account (1)
    * Google collects telephony log information like your phone number, calling-party number, forwarding numbers, time and date of calls, duration of calls, SMS routing information and types of calls (1)
    * Google logs device event information such as crashes, system activity, hardware settings, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and referral URL (1)
    * Google collects device-specific information (such as your hardware model, operating system version, unique device identifiers, and mobile network information including phone number) Google may associate your device identifiers or phone number with your Google Account (1)


    While such information is gathered by competing products and services, Google's vast range of "products and services" uniquely positions Google to collect more information about consumers than any other company. The problem with Google's vast network of information gathering is that Google has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of concern for consumers through their policies and practices. Furthermore, Google has consistently used very expedient methods to comply with or meet demands whether those of stockholders or governments. The vast amount of information collected by Google has arguably made Google the greatest threat to privacy ever known, a vast unsecured treasure trove of information that attracts hackers and online thieves, and; most worrisome; governments.



    * Google has done very little to protect Android users from malware. Considering that many people have significant amounts of personal information on their mobile devices, I find this completely unacceptable.
    * According to Sunnyvale, Calif., security firm Juniper Networks known instances of Android-related malware -- "virtually all" involving apps - have jumped steadily month by month from 400 in June 2011 to 15,507 in February 2012 (2)
    * "San Francisco-based Lookout Mobile Security reported In August 2011, that "an estimated half-million to one million people were affected by Android malware in the first half of 2011." (2)
    * Trend Micro of Japan, which has U.S. headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. - identified "more than 1,000 malicious Android apps" last year, 90 percent of them on Google's site and noted that the number of bad apps grew last year at 60 percent per month. Trend Micro has estimated the total this year "will grow to more than 120,000," (2)
    * Google proclaims that "Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line." (3) This is in direct conflict with Google's business model which serves advertisers and is a serious, undisclosed conflict of interest.
    * Google removed links to an anti-Scientology site after the Church of Scientology claimed copyright infringement in 2002. (4)
    * Google handed over the records of some users of its social-networking service, Orkut, to the Brazilian government, which was investigating alleged racist, homophobic, and pornographic content in September 2006. (4)
    * Google's mission statement "to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful" didn’t stop Google from censoring their Chinese search engine to gain access to a lucrative market. (4)
    * Privacy International has named Google the worst company in their 2007 survey and "hostile to privacy." (5)
    * Google has used their dominant position with Google Search to prefer Google+ search results and has published results that include personal data which doesn't provide an opt-out option. (6)

    * Google employees have vandalized OpenStreetMap by adding erroneous data. (7)
    * Google collected emails, texts, photos and documents gathered from Wi-Fi networks using Google's StreetView cars to collect data. (8)




    1. Unattributed. No Published Date provided. Edited on 1 March 2012. Google - Policies & Principles - Privacy Policy. Google. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
    2. Steve Johnson. Posted March 17, 2012. Updated March 23, 2012. http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_20182226/android-apps-targeted-by-malware?source=rss_viewed. San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
    3. Unattributed. No Published Date provided. Ten things we know to be true. Google. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
    4. Adam L. Penenberg. October 10, 2006. Is Google Evil?. MotherJones. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
    5. Unattributed. June 8, 2007. https://www.privacyinternational.org/article/race-bottom-privacy-ranking-internet-service-companies. Privacy International. Retrieved March 29, 2012.
    6. John Fontana. January 12, 2012 FTC asked to probe Google+, search integration. ZDNet. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
    7. Lucian Parfeni. January 17, 2012. Google Accused of Vandalizing OpenStreetMap Data. Softpedia. Retrieved May 22, 2012.
    8. Hack Doyle and Daniel Bates. Posted May 27, 2012. Sinister truth about Google spies: Street View cars stole information from British households but executives 'covered it up' for years. Daily Mail. Retrieved May 28, 2012.
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