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Google faces WHOPPING FTC fine for Safari privacy gaffe

Millions of juiced Apple surfers could add up to huge blow

By Kelly Fiveash, 17 Apr 2012

Google is reportedly going to be slapped with a bigger regulatory fine than the meagre one handed down to it from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late last week.

According to Mercury News, which cites anonymous sources familiar with the confabs between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google, the search giant is expected to be hit with a larger penalty over its bypassing of the default privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser.

The FTC – which is the Stateside consumer watchdog – could issue that fine within the next 30 days, the newspaper reported.

Its chums over at US communications regulator, the FCC, fined Google $25,000 last week for failing to aid its investigation into the company's "accidental" Street View fleet's Wi-Fi payload data slurp-fest.

But, significantly, the same probe failed to find that Google's actions had been unlawful because the data it collected was not encrypted.

As heavily documented in these pages, Google has been undergoing intense scrutiny of its business practices on both sides of the Atlantic for some time now.

In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FTC had widened its investigation of the firm to include its bypass of privacy settings on Apple's Safari browser.

Today's Mercury News piece reasserted other reports that the FTC is investigating the Safari snafu in relation to its existing consent decree. If that has been violated, then the commission could swiftly enforce that order by slapping a hefty fine on the Chocolate Factory.

Following Google's Buzz blunder in 2010, the company agreed last year to undergo biennial privacy audits for the next 20 years. As part of that agreement, Google avoided being fined and did not have to admit that its biz practices had been unlawful.

In fact, such a fine from the FTC could be huge, adding up to as much as $16,000 per violation per day.

The watchdog is currently trying to determine exactly how many people were affected by the Safari breach. That number of iPad, iPhone and Mac users could run into millions, the newspaper said. ®