Google has agreed to pay a $22.5m fine to settle charges that the company lied to users about the company’s use of behaviour-tracking cookies.
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said that the company would be paying a record fine over charges that users of the Safari web browser were unknowingly served with cookies when visiting Google sites.
According to the FTC, Google misled customers when it said that it would not use behaviour-tracking tools with Safari on its sites. As part of the settlement, the company will be required to bring its policies in line with the original promises made to users.
“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” said FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz.
“No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.”
The $22.5m figure has loomed over Google’s head for some time. As far back as early July, reports have suggested that the company was looking to pay the fine in order to settle the case.
User privacy has long been an issue for Google, which relies on search and targeted advertising for the overwhelming majority of its revenues.
The company prompted an international outcry when officials learned that cars used to collect images for the Google Street view service were eavesdropping on activity from passing Wi-Fi networks.
Earlier this week, Google announced that it would be integrating Gmail message search into its web search engine, prompting V3 to question whether additional privacy concerns could surface for the company.