U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled Internet search giant Google has been fined $22.5 million for a Safari privacy breach as part of an ongoing antitrust investigation. The settlement was reached on Friday, November 16, 2012 after a three month lawsuit between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google. Details of the lawsuit include Google's earnings - mounting to $22.5 million in earnings every four hours - and its violation of an agreement between the FTC and Google which required the company to be transparent about its behind the scenes tracking of users and vague security settings. Regulators found that millions of Google users were mislead by the company to believe that their online activities were not being tracked when the Safari browser's privacy settings were changed earlier this year.
Regulators also maintain that the computer coding performed by Google's website earlier this year bypassed automatic settings within the Safari browser and allowed the company to monitor user's online activities. The breach was relatively small in comparison to 190 million Safari users who browse via computers and mobile devices. FTC attorney Gary Reback believes the company should be charged $3 billion due to the number of users affected by the breach.
Illston final ruling followed a probe into what happened to the data the Safari browser collected and found that Google’s security “sufficiently protects consumers from ongoing harm without exposing them to additional risks.” The FTC sees the decision and settlement figure as a major milestone as it is the largest amount Google has ever been levied for a violation.