Google vs FTC: Google 1, FTC 0

Google pays "record" fine but denies wrongdoing

About 6 months ago, Google made the news for bypassing Apple's Safari browser settings for guarding privacy. Google, of course, claimed it would never do anything nefarious, that it was only reversing Safari protection for users who were logged onto Google and had turned off privacy protection in Google (or not).

Last Thursday, the FTC announced Google will pay a $22.5 million fine for falsely telling Safari users that it wouldn't place tracking cookies on their devices or serve them targeted ads. While this is the largest penalty ever secured by the FTC, it is chump change for Google, particularly when Google paid the fine while denying any guilt or liability.

In addition to admitting no legal liability, Google also did not:

  • Apologize
  • Commit to respect and obey FTC enforcement in the future
  • Publicly accept any responsibility for (yet another) major management supervision and internal control breakdown

It's not just Google. The FTC did not bother to mention it is anticompetitive to break into a leading competitor's operating system to disable privacy and security protections or fraudulent to trick that operating system with a deceptive page to think that Google's cookie was an approved Apple cookie. Amazing!

Google is not the only software company to run afoul of the FTC; the FTC has investigated Microsoft for close to 20 years in a number of areas,probably the most visible being those leading to the DOJ suit against them in the late 1990s regarding Internet Explorer. Somewhat more recently, Microsoft settled FTC charges in 2002 alleging false security and privacy promises. However, Microsoft did not deny wrongdoing as part of the settlement. What lets Google get special treatment?

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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