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US Judge fines Google £14m for Safari privacy breach

Google will have to pay a $22.5 million (£14 million) fine in the US after the Federal Trade Commission found that it illegally put ad tracking cookies on the computers of people using Apple's Safari web browser.

A US judge in San Francisco approved the fine last week. It is considered the largest penalty the FTC has ever imposed on a single company.

The FTC accused Google of deceiving millions of Safari users by stating on its website that their online activities couldn't be tracked when, in fact, the Internet giant intentionally inserted code to bypass privacy settings and collect data for advertising purposes.

Google insists it did not deliberately bypass default privacy settings and claims to now be removing advertising cookies.

Although the judge in the case called the settlement "fair" and "reasonable", consumer rights group Consumer Watchdog condemned the settlement for being too lenient on Google. The group argued that the $22.5 million settlement will have a minimal effect on Google, which generates that amount in revenue every four hours. The search giant should have been fined at least $3 billion (£1.9 billion) considering that an estimated 190 million users were affected, the group insisted.

Meanwhile, the FTC is pursuing another case against Google. The agency has been investigating Google for the past 20 months over concerns that it has been abusing its search dominance by ranking its own services higher than those of its competitors. Althoug the FTC urged the US government to sue Google over its questionable business practices in this case, analysts believe it will most likely end in the tech titan facing a similar fine and settlement.

Image Credit: Flickr (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff)