Google to pay $22.5 million in Safari cookie privacy row

9 August, 2012 - Paul Dixon

The US Federal Trade Commission has announced that Google has agreed to pay a record $22.5 million to settle charges that it misrepresented privacy assurances of Safari users. The company circumvented Safari’s default privacy settings to place an advertising tracking cookie on the devices of users who visited sites within its DoubleClick network.

“The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order,” said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC. “No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place.”

Google had previously assured Safari users that because the browser blocked third-party cookies by default, unless they altered its settings, they wouldn’t need to opt out of receiving the company’s advertising tracking cookie.

Despite that assurance, Google used invisible web forms to make it appear that a user had interacted with one of its DoubleClick adverts – tricking Safari into installing a temporary cookie, which in turn opened the doors for the offending ad cookie.

The fine is the largest that the US Federal Trade Commission has ever imposed on a single company.

About the author

Paul Dixon is the owner of Macsessed. He lives in Lancashire in the UK where he works as a web designer. You can find him on and Twitter.