Google Inc. is close to a deal to pay $22.5 million to settle charges related to its surreptitious bypassing of the privacy settings of millions of Apple Inc. users, according to officials briefed on the settlement terms.
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.
The current charges involve Google's use of special computer code to trick Apple's Safari Web-browsing software into letting it monitor users that had blocked such tracking.
Google's practices triggered an FTC investigation into whether the company had violated a 20-year consent decree it signed with the FTC only last October, according to lawyers involved in the investigation. In that agreement, Google agreed not to misrepresent its privacy practices to consumers.
The penalty for violating the agreement is $16,000 per violation per day.
In recent weeks, the FTC staff and Google have reached a proposed settlement and agreed on a fine, according to several people close to the investigation. The settlement is awaiting approval by FTC commissioners and could still be altered before it becomes public.
Google has previously encountered legal difficulties with regard to its promotion of prescription drug sales and Google Buzz.