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September 24, 2012

Google Paying $22.5M Fine, Bing Capitalizing on Opportunity

Google is paying a $22.5-million civil penalty to settle accusations it broke a privacy policy by “improperly tracking Apple Safari users,” according to news reports.

The penalty, announced late last week by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is the biggest fine the agency has imposed against a corporation for breaching a previous agreement with the agency.

To settle a prior case, Google had penned a 20-year contract that included a promise not to misinform users about its privacy practices.

Bing is capitalizing on the move by the FTC by launching a Web campaign asking Apple Safari users switch to Bing.

“If you are a Safari user, Google may have recently tracked you even though it promised it would not,” its webpage says. “Want to do something about it? Stop searching with Google and start searching with Bing. Better yet, make Bing your homepage and start every search with Bing.”

The FTC launched its investigation into the Safari activities six months ago after a Stanford University researcher found Google had superseded Safari safeguards to monitor users’ surfing activities without permission. Google instantly extracted its technology from Safari once the finding became public.

The alleged move by Google, according to the FTC, conflicted with a statement in Google’s online help center guaranteeing Safari users their online activities wouldn’t be tracked.

Google isn’t acknowledging any misconduct.

Google’s fine exceeds a nearly $19-million penalty paid by a telemarketer charged with tricking people into believing they were donating to charities.