Google will pay the Federal Trade Commission $22.5 million to settle claims it violated a privacy agreement with the FTC by secretly tracking Apple Safari users, the agency announced Thursday.
The search engine giant was accused of writing code to bypass user privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser, allowing the company to track users’ web browsing activities through its advertising network. Google’s conduct was a breach of its October 2011 settlement with the FTC, which placed Google under a 20-year privacy audit.
FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement that the penalty was meant to serve as an example to other companies that operate under an FTC privacy order.
“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,” said Leibowitz.
The fine is the largest single penalty the FTC has ever levied on a company.
Google’s ability to generate revenue, however, eclipses the fine’s likely financial impact. The company’s total revenue for 2011 was $37.9 billion.