Federal Trade Commission and Google have reportedly reached an agreement to settle charges regarding the proble over Google bypassing the privacy setting in Apple's Safari web browser.
As per the settlement, Google agrees to pay a record fine of $22.5 million, the Wall Street Journal first reported on the looming deal Tuesday.
According to "officials briefed on the settlement terms," the fine is expected to be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. It offers the latest sign of the FTC's stepped-up approach to policing online privacy violations, coming just six months after The Wall Street Journal reported on Google's practices.
The $22.5 million fine results from Google's 20 year agreement with the FTC, promising to be open and honest about its privacy practices. Google released the following statement, "We do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users." Although Google is planning on paying the $22.5 million fine, the settlement terms will not require the search engine to admit wrong doing.
"The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page published more than two years before our consent decree, and a year before Apple changed its cookie-handling policy," Google said in a statment. "We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers."
The deal, which would require the final approval of the commission, addresses claims that a Google program tracked Web behavior even as the company told users that default settings on Apple's Safari browser prevented such tracking.
Google officials have called the use of tracking cookies an accident caused by technical glitches that have been corrected. Privacy advocates have scoffed at those explanations.
"When they get caught with their fingers in the cookie jar doing something they clearly should not be doing, they say, 'Oops, it was completely by accident,' " said John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, based in Santa Monica, Calif., and one of several groups to file complaints about Google's alleged tracking on Apple browsers.
In other Google legal news, the search comapny asked Oracle to "pay the $4 million legal costs it accrued as part of the Java dispute between the two."
In a court filing, Google asked that Oracle pay costs including printing and copy fees, compensation for expert appointments and filing fees for both printed and electronic excerpts over the course of the case.
Much of the cost, some $2.9 million, was attributed to what Google attorneys described as "exemplification and the costs of making copies of any materials where the copies are necessarily obtained for use in the case."
Another $987,000 was demanded for what Google paid a court-appointed expert, and a $143,000 bill was given for the cost of transcripts, Wired reports.
Finally, in the Hanson vs Google AdWords settlement -- hundreds of Google advertisers now receiving refund checks this week. The settlement that was reached in 2009 for $20 million due to exceeding the daily budget within the AdWords system.
After a few years, the lawyers have sent out payment to advertisers who joined the class action suit.