The FTC could move quickly to fine Google for bypassing the default privacy settings in Apple’s Safari web browser.
An article in today’s San Jose Mercury News confirms an earlier Wall Street Journal report that the FTC is investigating Google’s actions, and added that a fine could be levied within the next 30 days.
At issue is whether Google violated its Google Buzz privacy settlement, part of which included Google promising not to misrepresent its privacy practices to consumers. Because the FTC is investigating the Safari cookie issue as part of a previous agreement, the Mercury News says the agency can move more quickly.
FTC spokeswoman Claudia Bourne Farrell declined to comment on the Safari case Monday, but the main threat for Google is that the FTC is investigating the Safari matter as the violation of an existing consent decree that resulted from alleged previous privacy violations, which gives the agency the resources to unleash a division of lawyers who enforce existing orders.
That is allowing the FTC to move much more quickly in the Safari case than it could in a stand-alone complaint about deceptive trade practices.
Google could face penalties of up to $16,000 per violation per day related to the Safari case. If the FTC decides that each person that used Safari counts as a separate “violation,” it could add up to a substantial financial penalty against Google.