SAN FRANCISCO – Google Inc. is paying a $22.5 million fine to settle the latest regulatory case questioning the Internet search leader’s respect for people’s privacy and the integrity of its internal controls.
The penalty announced Thursday by the Federal Trade Commission matches the figure reported by the Associated Press and other media outlets last month. It’s the most that the FTC has ever fined a company for a civil violation.
The rebuke resolves the FTC’s allegations that Google duped millions of Web surfers who use Apple Inc.’s Safari browser.
Google had assured people that it wouldn’t monitor their online activities, as long as they didn’t change the browser settings to permit the tracking.
Google broke that promise, according to the FTC, by creating a technological loophole that enabled the company’s DoubleClick advertising network to shadow unwitting Safari users. That tracking gave DoubleClick a better handle on what kinds of marketing pitches to show them.
The FTC concluded that the contradiction between Google’s stealth tracking and its privacy assurances to Safari users violated a vow that the company made in another settlement with the agency in October.
The latest settlement doesn’t affect a separate FTC inquiry over whether Google has been abusing its dominant position in Internet search to highlight its own services over rivals and drive up online advertising prices. The settlement also doesn’t come with any admission from Google of wrongdoing.