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Google may face fine over Safari privacy bypass

The FTC is considering sanctions against the Web giant for sidestepping user privacy settings in Apple's Safari Web browser, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Steven Musil Night Editor / News
Steven Musil is the night news editor at CNET News. He's been hooked on tech since learning BASIC in the late '70s. When not cleaning up after his daughter and son, Steven can be found pedaling around the San Francisco Bay Area. Before joining CNET in 2000, Steven spent 10 years at various Bay Area newspapers.
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Steven Musil
2 min read

Google may soon find itself paying another fine for privacy violations.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is expected to decide during the next 30 days whether to fine the Web giant for bypassing user privacy settings in Apple's Safari Web browser, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News that cited sources familiar with negotiations between Google and the agency.

In a practice it has since ceased, Google used special code to get around Safari's privacy controls in order to track users on computers and mobile devices. Google has previously told CNET that the company used known functionality in Safari to provide features that Google users had enabled. Further, the advertising cookies generated did not collect personal information, Google added.

The FTC is reportedly looking into whether Google's action violated a 2011 settlement agreement between the agency and the company over privacy concerns related to the launch of Google Buzz. Sanctions could reach $16,000 a day.

A Google representative defended the company's behavior as "[providing] features that signed-in Google users had enabled."

"However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser," Google spokesperson Chris Gaither told CNET. "We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions."

FTC representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Google has been involved in a number of privacy tussles over the years, the most recent of which involves a revision of its privacy policy to grant it explicit rights to "combine personal information" across multiple products and services. On Sunday, Federal Communications Commission announced it had fined the company $25,000, alleging that the Web giant "deliberately impeded and delayed" its probe into the policies governing the StreetView street-mapping service.

Updated at 7:55 p.m. PT with Google comment.