Tech giant close to agreeing deal with FTC after cookie rejection settings in Safari browser were bypassed, according to reports.
Google faces a $22.5m fine (£14.5m) for breaching the privacy of iPhone and iPad users after bypassing cookie rejection settings on the devices, according to reports.
If confirmed, the fine would be the largest ever imposed by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against a single company – and would be the second time this year that the search giant has fallen foul of regulators in the US.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC and Google are close to agreeing a settlement over the privacy breach, in which Google circumvented Apple's protections on the iPhone and iPad against the setting of third-party "cookies" – small text files stored on the user's device – for tracking where users went on the web.
While the users had to press a link to ask for Google cookies to be set, the circumvention meant that cookies from Google's DoubleClick ad network were also set on the their device – so that they would be tracked without their explicit consent. Apple's browser settings would otherwise reject cookies from third-party sites such as DoubleClick.
The discovery of the circumvention, by Jonathan Mayer of Stanford University, was first revealed in February. Millions of users of Apple's iOS software on iPhones and iPads could have been affected, said Mayer. Google declined a request from the Guardian to specify when it began the tracking.
Google's likely payout comes amid increasing focus on both sides of the Atlantic on what some see as monopolistic and aggressive behaviour. Although it the penalty would be a tiny part of Google's $40bn annual revenues and $10bn annual profits, it comes as the FTC is also investigating Google over whether it favours its own properties, such as YouTube and its Shopping service, over rivals.
Source: The Guardian