Google privacy settlement approved

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 November, 2012, 4:13am

Google's US$22.5 million agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle claims the company improperly planted cookies on Apple's Safari internet browser has been approved by a federal judge.

US District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco found arguments from a consumer group - that the settlement was inadequate - unpersuasive and accepted the agreement.

The court "finds that the proposed order is both procedurally and substantively fair, adequate and reasonable", Illston wrote in her order on Friday.

Under terms of the settlement, in addition to paying the fine, Google agreed to disable all the tracking cookies it had placed on the computers of Safari users and ensure all are gone by February 2014. Google denied wrongdoing, according to court filings. When the breach was exposed in February, Google said it "didn't anticipate this would happen".

Advocacy group Consumer Watchdog opposed the accord, saying it let Google off too easily. The group also suggested the FTC's separate antitrust investigation of Google might lack teeth.

The FTC had been investigating whether Google was abusing its dominance of the internet for almost 20 months, and the agency was prepared to sue if the company failed to make an acceptable proposal, two people familiar with the matter said last week.

The record US$22.5 million fine for the Safari breach is the FTC's first for an alleged violation of internet privacy.

Software cookies are files on computers that help websites and browsers identify users.