Google pays record fine for Safari tracking

If organizations have doubts that regulators are serious about enforcing their rules, they were erased with word Thursday of the record US$22.5 million civil penalty Google has agreed to pay the Federal Trade Commission.

The penalty was for violating a consent decree in another case that the search engine wouldn’t misrepresent the extent to which Google users could control personal information collected. But the FCC found Google placed an advertising tracking cookie on the computers of people using the Apple Safari browser who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network.

For details, see this story from PC World,  this report from CNET, and this from the Washington Post.

Google said the matter dealt with a Web page created in 2009 before the consent decree, and before Apple changed its cookies policy. Nevertheless, the FCC knows that in the public’s eyes privacy is a terrific weapon, and it wielded it. Lesson to businesses: Go through every privacy statement on your Web sites.