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November 19, 2012

Judge Approves $23M Google and FTC Settlement Deal

By Shawn Hebert, TMCnet Contributing Writer

A California federal judge on Friday approved Google Inc.'s negotiated agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC (News - Alert)) over alleged consumer privacy violations, calling the deal “fair, adequate and reasonable.”

The penalty was agreed upon last summer after the FTC concluded an investigation that found Google guilty of using cookies across its ad network after having promised Apple's (News - Alert) Safari Web browser users that it would no longer do so. Google claims the tracking was inadvertent and agreed to disable the cookies. 

Image via Shutterstock

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston presided over the hearing. Prior to her decision, she asked attorneys representing both sides whether Google (News - Alert) would be allowed to use the data it had collected from Safari users. Government attorney Adrienne Fowler stated that the data Google collected from Safari users is outdated and of little to no value. Google's attorney David Kramer agreed.

FTC attorneys said Google does not need to admit to any wrongdoing so long as a settlement was agreed upon, and Judge Illston obliged.

California-based consumer rights group Consumer Watchdog, however, feels that Google should face tougher penalties.

“It does not seem to police Google very well”, said Consumer Watchdog attorney Gary Rebeck, arguing that the $22.5 million fine was a drop in the bucket to Google, a company that posted a $9.7 billion profit in 2011.

The settlement approved on Friday was a direct result of the FTC's investigation of a 2010 claim in which the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint alleging that Google's Buzz service – a discontinued messaging tool – “violated user expectations, diminished user privacy and contradicted Google's privacy policy.”

As part of its settlement with Google, the FTC stated that the Internet search giant is barred from future privacy misrepresentations and is subjected to random privacy audits over the next 20 years.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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