Google: Corporate Liability

July 11, 2012

According to The Washington Post, the Federal Trade Commission is currently in the process of imposing a $22.5 million fine on Google for violating Apple computer, smartphone, and tablet user privacy rights by circumventing user privacy settings.

Google, among other internet search providers, can track user web behavior through the use of "cookies". Cookies can track internet searches, allowing Google to target advertise user-specific interests. Default setting on Apple devices prevented the use of cookies, a practice that users had been well aware of. However, Google made alterations to its cookies to record if users signed into Google services were viewing advertisement. The alteration allowed users to show their interests on Google's social network, Google+, through selecting specific advertisements. This feature malfunctioned and gave Google access similar to that of unaltered cookies. Apple device users were unaware of this, thus spurring this corporate liability lawsuit. While Google claims the malfunction was inadvertent, they will still be held liable for violating privacy rights and dodging privacy settings.

The $22.5 million penalty will be the largest issued by the Federal Trade Commission if affirmed. The previous record came in 2010 when the commission issued an $18.8 million against a telemarketing company. (Read the full article here!)

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