Judge approves Google’s $22.5M Safari tracking fine

It looks like Google may have to start writing out that $22.5 million check soon, to cover the fine it agreed to pay in order to settle the FTC claim that it illegally bypassed user privacy settings in Safari.

US District Judge Susan Illston approved the fine in a San Francisco federal court late Friday, which will go down as the largest penalty ever levied against a company by the Federal Trade Commission…

The Associated Press (via CNET) reports:

“A federal judge has approved a $22.5 million fine to penalize Google for an alleged privacy breach, rejecting a consumer-rights group’s plea for tougher punishment.

The blessing from U.S. District Judge Illston came late Friday. She made her ruling a few hours after a hearing in San Francisco for final arguments about a fine that’s the cornerstone a settlement reached three months ago between the Federal Trade Commission and Google Inc.”

While the FTC touted its actions as proof of its objective to protect the public interest, Consumer Watchdog, a consumer rights group, called the settlement ineffective and pleaded for a higher fine.

For those who came in late, back in February, Google was caught intentionally overriding the privacy settings of both desktop and iOS Safari users to better track their web browsing activity. It was discovered that the search engine was executing code that tricked Safari into thinking its web tracking was user-approved.

The FTC conducted a lengthy investigation before hitting Google with the $22.5M fine that was approved last week. It says the record-setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies.

Google, for its part, says that it takes privacy very seriously, and that it didn’t intentionally doge Safari’s default settings. Yeah right. At any rate, it has now set in motion the removal of the advertising cookies.