Internet giant Google, which has long maintained strong links to the Obama campaign and administration, found itself in double legal trouble this week.
On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Google has agreed to pay a $22.5 million fine in relation to surreptitious violation of Apple users’ privacy.
That fine, says the FTC, constitutes a “record.”
Observers say it underlines the seriousness of Google’s deliberate action to circumvent the Apple Safari browsing system’s standard setting that prevents monitoring of users’ web history, and Google’s placement of tracking “cookies” on the devices of Apple users whose browsing history the company had explicitly pledged not to monitor.
In addition to the penalty, Google will have to discontinue all tracking activities it promised users it would not engage in, in the first place.
According to the FTC, Google had agreed in October 2011 to take no action amounting to misrepresentation of the “extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information.” That settlement related to action the FTC charged was, as in this latest episode, deceptive and enabled the company to violate users’ privacy without their knowledge or consent.
The announcement of this penalty follows on news earlier this week that Google will be required by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to disclose payments it made to writers covering its dispute with Oracle Corp.
While the order also applies to Oracle, that could prove to be a major headache, as some of the sites covering the disagreement run ads placed by Google, and receive payment for running those ads.