A federal judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] on Friday approved the $22.5 million fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [official website] against Google [corporate website] for Google's alleged privacy misrepresentations concerning Apple's Safari internet browser. Google agreed [JURIST report] earlier this month to pay a record fine [press release] of $22.5 million to the FTC. The settlement also required Google to disable the tracking "cookies" that it originally said would not be placed on buyers' computers. Consumer Watchdog [advocacy website], a consumer advocacy nonprofit, opposed the settlement in court [memorandum, PDF], requesting that the court reject the settlement because it failed to include a permanent injunction on Google's actions, failed to include a sufficient legal penalty, and wrongly included a denial of liability. The request for a review of the settlement was granted [order, PDF] on October 12. The judge approved the settlement [AP report] hours after the final arguments concerning the validity of the settlement.
This is one of many legal challenges Google has faced regarding the privacy of internet users. In February, a federal judge dismissed [JURIST report] a suit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [advocacy website], a consumer privacy group, that asked the FTC to block Google's proposed privacy changes [text] that would allow a user's information to be shared among several Google products, including YouTube, Gmail, and Google Maps. Also in February, members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus [official website] sent a letter [JURIST report] to the FTC asking it to look into Google's possible unlawful privacy practices related to bypassing Safari settings to track users browser histories without their consent. The settlement allegedly violated by Google in this case was arranged in October 2011, and barred Google from misrepresenting the extent to which consumers can exercise control over the collection of their information. Several months prior, in March, the FTC announced [JURIST report] a similar settlement regarding Google's breach of consumer privacy rights by misleading users with Google Buzz, the company's then-social networking site. Previous concerns were raised in April 2007 when several internet privacy groups asked [JURIST report] the FTC to investigate the merger between Google and the advertising provider DoubleClick [corporate website]. "Deceptive" and "unfair" advertising claims were also brought against Google [JURIST report] by consumer groups in November 2006.