US DISTRICT JUDGE Susan Illston has approved a fine handed down by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Google over misleading users about privacy settings.
The FTC levied the fine against Google after it was found to have bypassed the Do Not Track setting in Apple's Safari web browser even though it told users that their privacy would be safe. The FTC handed down a $22.5m fine, which has now been approved by Judge Illston despite protests by consumer group Consumer Watchdog.
Google had advised Safari web browser users the browser's default privacy settings would protect them from snooping, however the firm was found to have modified its own tracking code to circumvent the Do Not Track flag. The firm's actions violated a promise Google made to the FTC in 2011 when it said it would not mislead users about its privacy policies.
Consumer Watchdog had argued that the $22.5m fine was little more than pocket change for Google and complained that the company got to keep all the data it acquired by misleading users. Meanwhile the FTC praised Judge Illston's decision to uphold the fine, saying it represented the biggest single fine handed down by the organisation for a civil violation.
According to Google's lawyers, the data gathered is too old to retain any value. The FTC estimated that Google made $4m from the data during its useful lifetime. Upon receiving word of Judge Illston's decision Google said, "We're glad the court agreed there was no merit to this challenge." µ