back to article Google pays just $22.5m to FTC over Safari tracking blunder

As expected, Google has agreed to pay the US Federal Trade Commission a paltry penalty of $22.5m for its sneaky bypassing of the default privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser. The consumer watchdog confirmed in a statement today that Google had settled on charges that it "misrepresented privacy assurances to users" and …

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Anonymous Coward

How do I tell if the tracking cookies are disabled?

I need 22.5 million myself. So how do I tell if Google is keeping their word?

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Silver badge
Meh

A slap

A slap on the wrist emphasising just how serious the offence was.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How do I tell if the tracking cookies are disabled?

Easy, Google publishes all their server details and source code for the tracking software used in their "transparency report"... Oh wait, scratch that, the report is really only about organisations outside of Google.

You may need either a cloudvoyant or a hacker for that then.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How do I tell if the tracking cookies are disabled?

Look for a cookie with google of the form:

id: OPT_OUT

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How do I tell if the tracking cookies are disabled?

That's just for behavioural tracking, for old fashioned, Stasi style, tracking they do it by IP not cookies.

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Bronze badge

Slap on the wrist?

Seriously? If Google takes in 22.5 m every 5 hours, that's not even a blip their radar. That's less than one half of one percent of its gross income. That's not a fine, it's a travesty!

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Gold badge

Re: Slap on the wrist?

That's not a fine, it's a travesty encouragement

There, fixed that for you, but I agree: fines are supposed to stop errant behaviour. The level of this fine basically acknowledges that the law doesn't matter one jot as long as it's Google.

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Anonymous Coward

Gaol time please ...

Now we see, clearly, yet again, the "genius" in Google's model of behaviour.

1: Break the law.

2: Do so on a scale so grand as to beggar belief

3: Get caught

4: Claim innocence, depite being found guilty

5: Pay the pittance of a fine

6: Continue behaviour unabated

7: Go to 1

Eventually, whatever law Google breaks becomes inneffective because no fine can be large enough to hurt them, and on other cases, the competitor has long since been sent broke by Google's actions.

We need to make the executives personally liable and responsible for egregious breaches of the law, with massive personal fines and gaol time liberally meted out.

Without this, there will be no change, because Schmidt, Page & Briin have no dog in the fight, and they are financially immune. If I conspired to pour toxic chemicals into the town water system, I suspect I might go to gaol for it. Google's executives won't get gaol time no matter how openly they disregard the law, and they behave accordingly.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gaol time please ...

Not quite.

Google implemented an opt out system that worked with every browser except Safari. Safari's 3rd party cookie policy meant Google's opt out cookie would not be delivered.

Google looked at Safari's default setting and said "It's OK, Safari's default settings will do the same as out opt out cookie.".

It turned out Google was wrong in two circumstances. The first was if the user had ever visited it's doubleclick.net website then they would end up being tracked.

The second was Googles attempts to put the +1 button on ads you like resulted in you being tracked as a side effect of hitting the button.

Tracking was an unexpected consequence, not a deliberate act.

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Anonymous Coward

Trying to rewrite facts again are we?

Completely false but good try at re-writing history.If that was true they wouldn't have been fined.

Read the original article for the facts:

"But Google faced a problem: Safari blocks most tracking by default. [...] To get around Safari's default blocking, Google exploited a loophole in the browser's privacy settings. While Safari does block most tracking, it makes an exception for websites with which a person interacts in some way—for instance, by filling out a form. So Google added coding to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google. Safari would then let Google install a cookie on the phone or computer."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204880404577225380456599176.html

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trying to rewrite facts again are we?

> While Safari does block most tracking, it makes an exception for websites with which a person interacts in some way

Like I said, users were tracked if they visited the doubleclick.net site (ie. interated with it)

> So Google added coding to some of its ads that made Safari think that a person was submitting an invisible form to Google

That was the +1 button for the ads. The primary purpose was to record the +1 button. The secondary effect was the user interacted with the site (via the form submission) and started being tracked.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trying to rewrite facts again are we?

1) No one really visits the Doubleclick.net site, that serves up tads that appear on third party websites that people actually interact with.

2) if that was really necessary why do +1 buttons still get recorded just fine even after Google was caught and forced to change that behaviour? Not only that Facebook's buttons - which do the same thing - were perfectly fine. Obviously Google never needed to do it the way they did, and the way they did it - exploiting a loophole - shows it was intentional.

I'm now beginning to think you'd believe pigs could fly if Google told you so. However your argument not only is invalid but it's moot, Google has been found guilty and fined by the FTC!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Trying to rewrite facts again are we?

1) Obviously some people do.

2) Google changed the coding. Facebook don't track so any coding they did for the button wouldn't have a side effect of tracking. There are always a dozen different ways to do anything.

It is unlikely that the coders who did the code for the +1 button have anything to do with the coders who do the tracking cookies. The +1 button coders would only be concerned with getting their bit to work.

Yes, Google have been found guilty, but the FTC decision makes no mention of the code that caused the tracking being deliberately written to do so.

I guess for you, any company that employs more than 2 people (Mom and Pop) is an evil institution out to rip hearts out of the innocent and steal the money out of the poor boxes.

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Facepalm

"clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order"

Yeah, that would be "Don't worry about it, bro!"

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Go

Good

Google's opt out policy should also be investigated. It doesn't make any sense to have to install a plugin to really opt out.

Actually, since they can't even be trusted to delete private data they were legally ordered to, all their privacy procedures should not be left to their own internal regulation but be regularly audited by an independent company.

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FAIL

So they pay the gov pocket money and do not have to admit fault. How is that a punishment?

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Anonymous Coward

i dont get it, so if ur computer is dumb enough to accept a cookie, why should google get in trouble, you are using there service after all. That'd be less then you going into my yard and asking me not to spray you with the hose, but i do anyway, then you sue me cuz you got wet..

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Silver badge

Erm...

The legal system is so fucked up in most Western countries that if you did spray a trespasser on your property with a hose, they probably could sue you for damages and they'd most likely win. Not that the trespasser would get any of the winnings of course; the only reason these kinds of ridiculous lawsuits ever succeed is so the judge and his good mates, the lawyers, can rip even more money out of yet another member of the public - in this case you, as the target of the lawsuit.

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Anonymous Coward

Money well spent!

"The FTC referred the case to the US Department of Justice, which on Wednesday agreed that Google's privacy blunder was in the public interest and proposed a consent decree that is subject to court approval."

Uh huh. I guess Google got their lobbyist money's worth on that one.

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