Google may face massive fine for tracking Safari users

July 11, 2012  |  Associated Press  |  Comments

Google is poised to pay a $22.5-million fine to resolve allegations that it broke a privacy promise by secretly tracking millions of web surfers who rely on Apple’s Safari browser, according to a person familiar with settlement.

The person who spoke to Associated Press asked not to be identified because the fine has yet to be approved by the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees online privacy issues in the U.S.

If approved by the FTC’s five commissioners, the $22.5-million penalty would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a single company.

Even so, the fine won’t cause Google much financial pain. With $49 billion in the bank, the internet’s search and advertising leader is expected to generate revenue this year of about $46 billion, which means the company should bring in enough money to cover the fine in slightly more than four hours.

But the circumstances surrounding the case may renew questions about the sincerity of Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto and raise doubts about the company’s credibility as it grapples with broader regulatory investigations into whether it has been abusing its influential position on the Internet to stifle competition.

“We do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users,” Google said in a Tuesday statement. The company emphasized the tracking technology inserted into the Safari browser didn’t collect any personal information.

Google will not acknowledge any wrongdoing under the proposed settlement, according to the person familiar with the terms.

The FTC declined to comment Tuesday.

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