Google faces record fine for privacy breach

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Google may be forced to pay an unprecedented $22.5 million fine for violating Apple users' privacy, according to reports.

The company's said to be close to reaching a deal with the Federal Trade Commission settling claims that it bypassed the privacy settings of millions of users to install cookies against users' wishes.

While Google disabled the code immediately and claimed that the whole thing had been an accident, the FTC launched an investigation soon after.

And according to the Wall Street Journal, the FTC's agreed a penalty with Google of $16,000 per violation per day, adding up to $22.5 million - the highest fine the FTC's ever imposed.

It's not the biggest fine that Google's had in the last year - that was a $500,000 penalty from the Justice Department for promoting illegal prescription drugs.

Nor is it the only privacy complaint the company faces: the UK's recently reopened its investigation into the illegal harvesting of personal data by the company's StreetView cars, for example.

Meanwhile, the EU and France are also carrying out their own investigations into Google's privacy policies.

But the record-breaking fine is a sign of just how seriously the FTC takes the issue - particularly given the timing. The Safari privacy breach was uncovered soon after Google was forced to tighten its privacy policies and submit to independent audits when it was found to have used deceptive tactics as part of the launch of its ill-fated Buzz social network last year.