In an anticipated move, the Federal Trade Commission levied a $22.5 million fine against Google for violating its ongoing consent decree by violating user privacy by secretly tracking Safari users who had asked not to be tracked:
In its complaint, the FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network, although Google had previously told these users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking, as a result of the default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Google specifically told Safari users that because the Safari browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, as long as users do not change their browser settings…Despite these promises, the FTC charged that Google placed advertising tracking cookies on consumers’ computers, in many cases by circumventing the Safari browser’s default cookie-blocking setting. Google exploited an exception to the browser’s default setting to place a temporary cookie from the DoubleClick domain. Because of the particular operation of the Safari browser, that initial temporary cookie opened the door to all cookies from the DoubleClick domain, including the Google advertising tracking cookie that Google had represented would be blocked from Safari browsers.
Yet Google continues to deny liability for the infraction even as it agreed to pay the fine. FTC Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch was so incensed by Google’s refusal to admit culpability that he dissented from the decision to accept the agreement, arguing:
This is Google’s second bite at the apple. The Commission accuses it of violating the Google Buzz consent order by “misrepresent[ing] the extent to which users mayexercise control over the collection or use of covered information” and accordingly, seeks civilpenalties for those violations. In other words, the Commission charges Google with contempt.This scenario – violation of a consent order – makes the Commission’s acceptance of Google’s denial of liability all the more inexplicable.
So Google once again uses its checkbook to pay fines while denying responsibility for its ongoing illegal activity, similar to the sealing of evidence that Larry Page himself knew about facilitating illegal pharmacy ads.
This reflects the double standard of treatment for the rich versus the poor, since almost no street criminal would ever be allowed to make a plea without admitting responsibility for its criminal behavior.