Google has reached a preliminary deal with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to pay a $22.5 million fine (£14.5m) for evading privacy settings on Apple’s Safari web browser, CNN Money reports. The fine, which is still subject to approval from FTC commissioners, is the largest the agency has ever levied against a single company over privacy issues.
Under the terms of the deal, Google will admit no wrongdoing.
In February, a researcher at Stanford University discovered that the search giant circumvented Safari’s privacy settings against the setting of third-party cookies — small files stored on the user’s computer or other web device — enabling advertisers to track web activity without the user’s consent. Apple’s default settings block third-party cookies, which posed a problem for ad services like Google’s DoubleClick that rely on the information the cookies provide.
Johnathan Mayer, the Stanford researcher who discovered the breach, says that millions of iPhone and iPad users could have been affected, according to The Guardian.
While the breach exposed users’ browsing history, personal information was never in jeopardy.
The breach discovered in February is the second privacy issue the search giant has had this year.
In April, the FTC fined Google $25,000 for impeding an investigation into whether the company broke the law while collecting data for its Street View service. The Commission revealed that information from open wi-fi networks was also being collected as the Street View system passed.
The current fine, while the largest levied by the FTC, is a drop in the pocket for Google, which earned $2.9 billion (£1.87b) last quarter.