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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Google Will Be Sued over Safari Cookies

The world’s largest search engine Google might have to pay the Federal Trade Commission $10 million for breaching privacy on Apple’s Safari Internet browser. This fine, if applied, would be the first by the government for a violation of online privacy and is apparently based on an allegation that the search engine deceived the users by planting cookies on Safari, thus bypassing Apple software’s privacy settings.

Although there were many similar breaches before, FTC didn’t go that far to impose a fine that big. What appears to have got the Commission’s goat is that by bypassing the browser’s built-in privacy protections, search engine could lob targeted advertising at Apple users. In response, the company claimed that it never anticipated that would have happened and that Google was removing the files since discovering the problem. Nevertheless, the trouble wasn’t dealt with until it was discovered by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer. This makes the industry observers suspect that it was a cunning plan since the very beginning.

It isn’t clear whether the European regulators will also express the will to wade into the search giant. Actually, they are already probing the company more broadly on the matter of its privacy policy – this past March Google received a request for detailed questionnaire over the issue. So, it’s fairly likely that European regulators will also add the current problem to the list of things they want to hit Google with. Anyway, if we take into account the EU debt crisis, coupled with the Euro slumping, the regulators apparently needs new sources of income, so a billion dollar anti-trust fine will help run the European administration for another hour. 

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