A federal judge approved Google’s offer of $22.5 to settle an ongoing legal tussle with the Federal Trade Commission. The tech giant has been accused of planting cookies on Apple’s Safari browser illegally which enables it to track the browsing history of users. Google had made the offer of $22.5 million to settle the claims once and for all but the proceedings got delayed when a consumer group deemed the amount to be inadequate.
The consumer group was allowed to put forward its arguments against Google and why the penalty should be higher than the amount Google offered to pay. However, the judge overseeing the case in San Francisco was not convinced by their arguments and approved Google’s offer. The order clearly stated that the settlement offer made by Google was fair and adequate in eyes of the law and the case would be settled.
The issue was created when it was found that Google had found a way around user settings on Apple’s Safari browser. The company was able to plant certain cookies through the browser which kept track of the consumer’s browsing history. The case had been ongoing for the past nine months or so with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hot on Google’s heels. Apart from investigating this case, the FTC is also trying to work out whether Google has been abusing its position in the industry.
The Consumer Watchdog, the consumer group opposing the decision, has been saying that the amount to be paid by Google is inadequate. However, the payment is just one of the terms for settling the case. In addition to paying the money, Google also has to remove any cookies it planted on the Safari browser. Google has agreed to do so and the court has issued a February 2014 deadline for it. Though Google has agreed to settle the case, the company has been denying any wrongdoing from the start.
The fine imposed on Google is claimed to be groundbreaking. Never before has the FTC actually imposed a penalty on a company for breaching the internet privacy of users. They hope this would be a precedent which would ward off future attempts by internet companies to use their technology to compromise online privacy of the people.
One thing which is sticking out like a sore thumb is that Google has been allowed to retain the data it has collected from the time it first planted the cookies on the Safari browser. They would be able to use the data retrieved from reportedly 190 million users for their own purposes. After paying the money and agreeing to remove the cookies they planted, it does seem as though Google is walking off scot-free. After all, $22.5 million is pocket change for a multi-billion dollar company like Google.
For now, Google has to comply with the policies regarding user data for the next two decades. Any more breaches could lead to stricter sanctions. Google has to clarify any usage of user data for the next 20 years according to the agreement. Still, one feels the company has gotten off lightly.