What Will the FTC Do With This Privacy Problem Child?

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which agreed to have planted cookies on Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) Internet browser Safari that bypassed the software’s privacy settings, is negotiating the amount of fine it will pay the Federal Trade Commission for the breach. The fine, a first by the FTC for a violation of Internet privacy, could go up to more than $10 million dollars.

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The FTC will accuse Google of having violated consumers’ online rights as well as terms of a consent decree the company signed last year. Google had signed the decree with FTC to settle allegations that it violated privacy policies through its Buzz social network and agreed, in return, to follow policies that protect consumer data and to submit to regular privacy audits for 20 years.

However, its cookies let it bypass Safari’s built-in privacy protections in computers, iPhones, and iPads, helping target advertising to consumers. Once the breach was discovered, by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer on February 16, Google said it “didn’t anticipate this would happen.”

The FTC can impose fines of up to $16,000 for each day of violation. In 2006, it had fined data broker ChoicePoint a total of $15 million in what is the largest fine in a privacy-related case.

“We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions,” Chris Gaither, a Google spokesman, told Bloomberg, but declined comment on the case.

European regulators are also investigating Google separately and more broadly on its privacy policy.

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