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FTC Reportedly Fining Google $22.5 Million Over Safari Privacy Abuse

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the 'tis-but-a-flesh-wound dept.

Google 175

New submitter Slashbots writes "Google will settle with the FTC for nearly $22.5 million over its bypassing of Apple's Safari browser privacy settings. It would be the largest settlement with the FTC over privacy-related charges ever. By abusing a privacy hole in Safari, Google circumvented user settings to show them advertising and track the user. 'Safari, unlike other browsers, blocks cookies from ad networks like Google's. But because of a loophole, Google had been able to avoid the block, as researchers discovered in February. It installed cookies and tracked Safari users across the Web to show them personalized ads.'"

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Jail Time? (5, Insightful)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614853)

This thing of "We do something illegal, you fine us, everyone's happy" must stop. Somebody must serve some nice jail time (not much, say 6-12 months) and then maybe such fucked up practices would diminish.
This is like me breaking into someone's house, pissing and shitting all over the place, then paying a 5 dollar fine for doing so. Would that stop me in the future? Hell no.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

Iceykitsune (1059892) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614875)

How do you imprison a corporation?

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40614905)

Ask the judicial system they ruled corporations are people.

Re:Jail Time? (2)

Buccaneer Waggerstrm (2682059) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614987)

You freeze Google's assets and jail anyone involved. Problem solved.

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615141)

And that punishes people who had nothing to do with. Again, ask the judicial system.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615713)

And that punishes people who had nothing to do with. Again, ask the judicial system.

Screw jail time. All that accomplishes is that a few scapegoats go to jail while the rest of the cabal which inevitably escapes prosecution goes and buys new yachts to celebrate getting away with breaking the law. Do what was done here, fine them, except make the fine much bigger. Google shrugs off a $22 million fine, but I $2 billion would get their attention. The only time a corporation feels pain is when it looses money.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615833)

How about both? CEO in jail (or at least one of the few directly reporting to him) AND a hefty fine, which is a % of yearly profit, starting from 10% and increasing by a fixed amount every time they are found guilty of something.

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40614927)

Put the C*O names on different regions of a dartboard. The first three darts to hit the board result in a 5 year prison sentence.

More usefully, find who implemented it. Give them the standard mob options: 15 years, or 5 if you can prove you were just a grunt. Continue the chain until someone's getting 15 years.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615167)

More usefully, find who implemented it. Give them the standard mob options: 15 years, or 5 if you can prove you were just a grunt. Continue the chain until someone's getting 15 years.

Guilty until proven innocent on the grunt's part, eh? I suspect we would see a lot of grunts with tire tracks on their backsides.
Meanwhile, the "We're responsible for the company until we're not responsible for the company" CxO's would still swim in champagne, ski in cocaine and float about on the breeze in their golden parachutes.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615183)

The Pointy-Haired Boss explained the problem with this: "Credit travels upwards, blame travels downwards. That's just the way it works."

Re:Jail Time? (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614953)

How do you imprison a corporation?

Seriously, a better punishment would be community service. If Google had to teach a certain number of man-years in IT lessons in public schools it would be a deterrent to Google and a benefit to education.

Re:Jail Time? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615135)

If Google had to teach a certain number of man-years in IT lessons in public schools it would be a deterrent to Google and a benefit to education.

OK, your punishment makes sense for the Mighty GOOG, but what if you wanted to punish Microsoft? Having them "teach" kids is just going to screw the kids up even worse. Also "real programmers" don't have degrees, but public schools require not just bachelors but masters legally to teach.

Now what would work, is using existing community service programs. The corp has to provide 200000 paid hours of recyclables sorting, soup kitchen labor, park and roadside cleanup labor, etc. Emphasis on paid hours. Most corps such as mine already demand workers put in completely unpaid "volunteer" hours as part of our jobs, part of our official job evaluations.

Re:Jail Time? (3, Insightful)

aristotle-dude (626586) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614963)

How do you imprison a corporation?

The "buck" is supposed to stop with the CEO of the company so you imprison/fine the CEO and/or the C-level exec who signed off on the project personally.

Some exec should be seeing either a personal fine, jail time or both.

Designated Felon (5, Interesting)

Aqualung812 (959532) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614985)

The EPA already attempts to do this using what has been termed the "designated felon".

The idea is that if there are severe environmental damages, the company has to have someone designated as the person that will do jail time. The idea is that this person is in charge of setting and enforcing the policies that will keep her out of jail.
It even allows someone that violates the policies to be the one that serves jail time. In other words, the DF says "you must do this", and if you ignore that, you do the time.

However, this isn't enforced as much as it should be, and I'm not aware of any other use of this idea outside EPA regulations.

Re:Designated Felon (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615041)

And at a guess, the DF is rarely the person who actually made the decision, but instead the one who implemented it. Solicitation is a crime in itself, as a guy whose name I happen to find interesting [suntimes.com] found out recently, but that legal principle seems to go out the window when corporate money is involved.

Re:Designated Felon (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615297)

Don't mod parent down, if you know what's good for you ;)

Re:Designated Felon (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615743)

Good point. Maybe I should put that link in my .sig line.

Re:Designated Felon (0)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615553)

I wonder how much a job like that pays? Can one apply for it? "Hi, I'd like to apply to become your designated felon. I want a company car, a nice salary and conjugal visits if I do time."

Re:Jail Time? (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614993)

How do you imprison a corporation?

"Corporations are people, my friend." Except when they're not. Convenient how that works.

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615075)

Someone made the decision. A real live person. They need to be named. When corporations are doing something wrong, there will always be a person that makes the final call. They are the ones that need to face jail time. It'll only take one case to make all the bastards hiding behind corporate names stop and think before they continue down a dodgy path.

It's called piercing the corporate veil, it's used when finance is involved, and can trivially be done in cases like this.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615103)

How does a corporation have free speech rights?

Re:Jail Time? (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615233)

If the CEO is important enough to get millions of dollars, then he is important enough to jail, though I would say it would be reserved for more grevious crimes.

Rick Scott, the idiot governor of Flordia, made himself rich off what was then the biggest medicare scam in history. He is a great example of someone who should of gotten personal jail time.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615415)

Oh, and as usual, we are forgetting that a Corporation is a creation of the state; if the state is so inclined it can take away its charter and make it illegal to do business in this country. Sure they just morph and reincorporate, but that brand name would be lost forever.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615237)

How do you imprison a corporation?

Has anyone ever tried (cost of imprisonment per year) * (number of officers, or number of employees).

Supposedly it costs $70K per prisoner per year (hmm, I bet it depends where and what security level) so 22.5 million is 321 person-years of prison. That seems a little excessive since you can kill someone and only get a decade or so... I'm not sure the GOOGs action is quite up to the mass murderer level.

It would make a hell of a lot more sense to give corporations probation, and charge them an amount of money which goes directly to the budget of the applicable regulatory agency... so $22.5 M extra dollars devoted to "double secret probation" watching the Mighty GOOG even closer.

Re:Jail Time? (3, Interesting)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615847)

Supposedly it costs $70K per prisoner per year (hmm, I bet it depends where and what security level) so 22.5 million is 321 person-years of prison. That seems a little excessive since you can kill someone and only get a decade or so...

Not excessive at all when you consider that no one actually has to do the time, live with the felony conviction, etc...

A better comparison might be:

Google 2011 Revenues (Income): 37,905,000,000
Fine: 22,500,000
Fine as % of Income: 0.06%

Compare to a "comfortable" person making $100K
Gross Income: 100,000
Fine @ 0.06%: $60

Yeah, somehow I don't think that's much of a disincentive there...

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615307)

How do you imprison a corporation?

Force them to move and operate from a failed country with corrupt officials, preferably under economic sanctions, without any chance to withdraw their assets from it. Bribing officials will work only as long as officials don't realize that corporations sentenced to serve under them are totally their bitches.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615327)

How do you imprison a corporation?

you suspend their license to operate for a period of time.

Re:Jail Time? (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615407)

How do you imprison a corporation?

There's X active employees around the time of the crime and that crime earns a Y month prison term if a mere citizen did it instead of a corp. There are practical issues with sending individuals to prison, but GOOG could hire/outsource A number of unemployed and/or homeless people to attend prison in their employees place for B months where X*Y = A*B and the monthly "wage" of attending prison as an honorary GOOG employee floats as a free market but never declines below 40 hours a week at minimum wage. "Inmate employees" legally required to get the same benefits as non inmate employees. Its crazy, but not too crazy.

I would imagine, since you're only being paid while you attend prison, security at corporate prison would be pretty light and cheap other than keeping the scum from killing each other. Build next to a hospital because plenty of uninsured will be signing up to be goog employees, build next to a college (and GED high school) since many inmates would like to learn while incarcerated and they've got a guaranteed income, build next to a gym because many inmates are fat, build next to a detox center because many volunteer inmates will be there because of addiction, build next to a mental hospital because many homeless are completely nuts...

There is a political desire, by some anyway, to drug test welfare recipients. Well, as GOOG employees, voluntary inmates would have to pass a drug screen like any other employee, I suppose. Some employers don't drug screen. Whatever. I donno about prison life, but don't they drug test "inside"?

This also works around the hire and fire issues, where if the Mighty GOOG hired me next week, there seems no point in imprisoning me if I had nothing to do with it.

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615613)

You need to hit the shareholders. Once the fines get so large they impact profits, the shareholders will push management to behave.

Locking up the executives would be a beautiful thing as well.

Since that won't happen anytime soon, don't use products or services by companies that do these kinds of things.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

future assassin (639396) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615737)

You jail the person who came up with the idea. Just because you hide behind a corporation doesn't mean you are not liable if you do something that is against the law.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615027)

WTF was that you?!?

Re:Jail Time? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615893)

Heh, was my evil twin, I swear! I'm innocent!

It WAS a pain in the ASS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615091)

Because of that fine, Apple will have to use the cheap toilet paper for a whole DAY! YOU try to develop with a sore anus!

Re:It WAS a pain in the ASS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615273)

Umm, Google was the company that ignored the settings on Apple's browser. Google is being fined, not Apple.

Do you lack the ability to comprehend simple sentences, or is your hatred of Apple the issue? ::sigh::

Re:It WAS a pain in the ASS! (1)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615811)

Because of that fine, Apple will have to use the cheap toilet paper for a whole DAY! YOU try to develop with a sore anus!

Umm, Google was the company that ignored the settings on Apple's browser. Google is being fined, not Apple.

Do you lack the ability to comprehend simple sentences, or is your hatred of Apple the issue? ::sigh::

I's called a 'Freudian slip [wikipedia.org] '.

Re:Jail Time? (3, Interesting)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615115)

This thing of "We do something illegal, you fine us, everyone's happy" must stop. Somebody must serve some nice jail time (not much, say 6-12 months) and then maybe such fucked up practices would diminish.
This is like me breaking into someone's house, pissing and shitting all over the place, then paying a 5 dollar fine for doing so. Would that stop me in the future? Hell no.

Geez, you and your rational views. Don't you know the corporate veil protects all within? I mean, just because Corporations are People .. seriously, they're about as accountable for their crimes as an indigent doing to your house, what you describe. You're hosed, you won't get anywhere prosecuting them. The bank crisis made this painfully clear - so many little crimes done by committee, what can you do, put the committee in jail? Fines are about the only way to punish and usually only punishes those left behind, because the people who committed the actions are now off somewhere with their big bonuses.

I like the way they fine you in Germany .. it's based upon your ability to pay. It makes you really feel the pain. A rich guy gets drunk and drives across your lawn, he can be fined hundreds of thousands, because it's based upon his income or wealth, not some set, piddly amount. So we implement such a system and then pull back in the people who made these decisions and make them pay .. prevents making a mess and escaping, while others are left to clean up after you. Also encourages leaving your former place of business in good order, going concern looked after sorta thing.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615931)

I agree to that view as well. But sometimes, prison time hurts more than even huge fines, because the person at the top is nowhere near used to that, nor do they expect anything like that to happen to them.
The prison time shock would likely be so great that top executives would turn to become completely honest for the rest of their lives. And even if not, it's worth giving it a try.

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615125)

You have a weird idea of "illegal". The FTC is just insane and out of bounds.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615285)

Every time the corporate anarchists have to come out to play.

Re:Jail Time? (1)

epine (68316) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615173)

This is like me breaking into someone's house, pissing and shitting all over the place, then paying a 5 dollar fine for doing so. Would that stop me in the future? Hell no.

That why credit rating agencies were granted an exemption from prosecution for liability and slander, even if their files contain shit information, and they spread it around to anyone who asks, even after they've being pointedly informed that the information is false.

You underestimate the power of a black eye well deserved, which is almost so great as s/Tuttle/Buttle.

Re:Jail Time? (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615375)

well, you're off base. It's hard to jail a company. The problem here isn't the penalty being a fine... the problem is fining a company that's worth $185 Billion, $22 million. That'd be like fining your average person $5 to $10. It's not even a slap on the wrist. The fine should be a percentage of the businesses market cap plus all gross revenue generated by the offending activity. Fines in the neighborhood of a Billion dollars would have a more dramatic affect on operations I'd think.

Told ya. (1)

shiftless (410350) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615465)

Google is evil.

Re:Jail Time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615589)

You're deeply naive if this fine reflects anything but Google's relative lack of aggressive lobbying.
Microsoft was in the same boat a decade ago, until they figured out they can bribe congress and hire lobbyists to make their govt problems go away.

This, and the "wifi gate" issue are basically non-issues that have been blown out of proportion by legislators propped up by Google's competitors.
22.5 million for hacking around a browser's half baked broken implantation of what is effectively an "evil bit?" ? You have to be fucking kidding me.

For that matter, Googles response to this whole issue has been pretty graceful. They don't have their CEO posting whiny screeds about having their innovation stomped on. They just shrug, disagree, and pay the fine to let the issue go away.

Idealist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615609)

Powerful men use their power to avoid taking responsibility for their actions. It is harmful, unfair, and wrong as wrong can be. It is also how the world actually works. It has always been this way, and always will be.

Complain all you want, this will *never* change.

Re:Idealist (1)

war4peace (1628283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615951)

I know. That's why I'm writing on Slashdot instead of lobbying for it out there on the streets :)

Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614923)

... like most corporate fines, the number seems absurdly low. $22.5 million is about 0.06% (not 6%, 0.06%, six hundredths of a percent) of Google's 2011 revenue. This would be equivalent to fining the average person about twenty bucks, which isn't much of a deterrent when there's serious money to be made by breaking the rules. Until fines for these kinds of violations at least come close to matching the potential profit, the behavior isn't going to change.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (0)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615023)

... like most corporate fines, the number seems absurdly low. $22.5 million is about 0.06% (not 6%, 0.06%, six hundredths of a percent) of Google's 2011 revenue. This would be equivalent to fining the average person about twenty bucks, ...

That's not $20 a person like you say, thats like $1 million per actual real world Safari user.

Seriously it might ship, but does anyone actually use it? Kind of like "notepad.exe" is theoretically the worlds most widely deployed word processor but no one really uses it. I'd like to see some stats on how many people they were tracking with this. The comparison you're looking for is every victim we track theoretically earns us $10 in revenue per year (optimistically) but the fine works out to 100 years of profits at $1000 per track. Hmm I think that might be an unprofitable line of business, lets put the money toward the "save the igoogle" charity fund instead.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (1)

Buccaneer Waggerstrm (2682059) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615179)

Yes people use Safari, it's a good browser. It even says in the summary that it's the only browser that doesn't accept cookies from ad networks. It's that good.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615417)

Apparently, it DOES accept cookies from ad networks. They should really fix that.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615251)

Why are the low UID posts always the most pig ignorant? FFS, you couldn't even understand the OP's $20 comment correctly.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615299)

Surely you jest. The almighty Jobs hath created safari and bequeathed it to the enlightened Apple user, therefore it is the best on the market. Why would one sully their beautiful and curvy mac with inferior non-Jobs software?

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615427)

Actually yes, I use it all the time. I have Safari and Chrome as my two main browsers (used to be Safari and Firefox).

Yes, it ships on OS X and I know a fair few Mac users who don't use it (and they all seem to universally use Chrome instead), but Safari is actually not a terrible browser (on the Mac - I cannot speak to the Windows version), so people who use it tend to see no reason to change.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615043)

I think they should impose fines defined as % of gross worldwide income. Say fine them 20% of their gross worldwide revenue:

US$ 37.905 billion *.2 = $7.581 billion.

Profit: US$ 9.737 billion (2011), that means their profit is now $2.156 billion. Their shareholders wouldn't like that.

To be clear,
Gross worldwide income would be the sum of revenue from all of Google worldwide, plus the revenue from anything they have a share in defined as a percent. That way, they can't be a 'shell' company that owns 20% of "Google Search Inc" or "Google Ads Inc".

Actually, fine all the shareholders too, as a % of their gross income.

That way if "Google Browser Intel" has a gross annual income of $0, they can't get fined for $0, but their owner, "Google" gets fined for 20% of their income.

Close the loopholes!

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (2)

MachDelta (704883) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615203)

"Google slashes 10% of workforce in order to recoup costs from fines to keep shareholders happy"

Shit, like water, always runs downhill.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615367)

"With sudden budget surplus, US gov't employs thousands of workers around the country"

It'd also suck money into the gov't's pocket.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615287)

Speeding tickets should be that way too!

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615185)

You're mixing two different things. Either the fine should be based on income in order to make the punishment be of similar "pain", in which case that it can make "serious money" is irrelevant. Or the fine should be based on how much money can be made by breaking the rules, in which case the income of the rule breaker is irrelevant. Or some combination (just you can have both a compensatory and a punitive damages award) of course, but arguing for the former based on the later makes no sense.

If breaking the rules would be expected to make google $10 million then a $22.5 million fine might well act as a significant deterrent (depends on the chance of being caught and fined) - that doesn't change if google's revenues are $100 million or $100 billion.

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615263)

... like most corporate fines, the number seems absurdly low.

Its actually not a fine, its a settlement without admission of wrongdoing. An actual fine would require the FTC to prove that Google had done something for which it could be fined, which would have involved more public expense at greater risk. (If they had a really strong case, they would have held out for at least a settlement with an admission of wrongdoing, since when finalized such a settlement would have greater value in future proceedings.)

Re:Okay, I'm glad to see this, but ... (3, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615483)

This is all so arbitrary. Oddly enough google's fine of $22.5 million is exactly 1000 times the fine of $22,500 [wikipedia.org] that US courts recently upheld as a reasonable fine for pirating songs - that's per song. So if we held "stealing" a user's surfing habits to be equivalent to "stealing" a copy of a song, google's fine would only cover the first 1000 affected users.

Illegal? (1)

Bigby (659157) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614951)

Is this illegal because of the DMCA? It is very common for people and companies to circumvent application security. It is usually up to the application to secure itself.

Does this mean that I could sue someone for using some form of XRay glasses? Because my clothes are supposed to prevent people from seeing me naked...

Re:Illegal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615065)

I don't think DMCA applies. No movies or songs were involved.

Re:Illegal? (1)

Shompol (1690084) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615083)

...someone like TSA. They finally installed naked scanners in JFK. I am not even sure if i can opt out, or if i should.

Re:Illegal? (4, Informative)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615121)

No. It wasn't any sort of active attempt at hacking. It wasn't breaking any encryption. Even the EFF [eff.org] admits it was probably unintended.

Saying Google "used a loophole" is just a loaded way of saying Safari had a bug. The technique had been known for at least two years [wsj.com] , and was used by companies other than Google.

Re:Illegal? (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615281)

It probably wasn't illegal. Google just realized it would be easier to pay up-front than get involved in a legal dispute over who did what when that would drag out and be all over the news for the next month with headlines like "Did Google Hack Apple Products?" Which you know would happen.

Re:Illegal? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615445)

The DMCA only applies to security measures intended to restrict access to copyright-protected works. It doesn't apply to security in general.

What about the users (1)

cubby96 (2566085) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614959)

If my privacy was violated, what is the effect of this ruling to me? I assume I would receive nothing from the settlement, as it is a penalty/fine. And the fine is probably less than the benefit they received from the advertising they were able to sell. Just a cost of doing business. How disappointing that we can't put some teeth into judgments like this.

Individual users can sue (1)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615131)

Or file a class-action suit if they feel it's worth a damn. The FTC ruling is more of a regulatory move. The FTC isn't a court, and so you won't see the fabulous sums bandied about in law suits.

Re:What about the users (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615195)

The intended effect would be that Google stops doing that.

Personally, I'm not going to hold my breath.

Not a sentence (1)

k(wi)r(kipedia) (2648849) | more than 2 years ago | (#40614965)

Google will settle with the FTC for nearly $22.5 million over its bypassing of Apple's Safari browser privacy settings. Google, the largest settlement with FTC over privacy related charges ever.

The part that begins with "Google, the largest settlement" isn't a sentence. Either it's missing a verb or it's a wrongly split part of the first sentence: "Google will settle with the FTC for nearly $22.5 million, the largest settlement with the FTC over privacy-related charges."

Re:Not a sentence (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615501)

Google will settle with the FTC for nearly $22.5 million over its bypassing of Apple's Safari browser privacy settings. Google, [????] the largest settlement with [the] FTC over privacy related charges ever. By abusing [a] privacy hole in Safari, Google circumvented user settings to show them [the user settings] advertising and track the users, 'Safari, unlike other browsers, blocks cookies from ad networks like Google's. But because of a loophole[^Wvulnerability], Google had been able to avoid[^Wcircumvent] the block, as researchers discovered in February. It [the loophole/Google/the block/researchers] installed cookies and tracked Safari users across the Web to show them personalized ads.'

Remember, kids (0)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615017)

Do no evil!

Re:Remember, kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615069)

Incorrect. Google's informal slogan is, "Don't be evil."

Seriously, why is that so hard for people to remember?

Re:Remember, kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615111)

Incorrect. Google's informal slogan is, "Don't be evil."

Seriously, why is that so hard for people to remember?

Because the REAL quote makes it harder to make childish, snarky remarks about them?

A Soundbite-Based Worldview: We always acted so smug, as if the nerd world was immune to it...

Re:Remember, kids (1)

b5bartender (2175066) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615143)

Why is it so hard for Google to remember?

Re:Remember, kids (1)

Swampash (1131503) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615593)

Because Google seems unable to remember it either?

Google, the largest settlement with FTC over... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615025)

"Google, the largest settlement with FTC over privacy related charges ever. "

Excellent, I agree.

Re:Google, the largest settlement with FTC over... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615063)

I googled it and I got this thread!

To Google, that is 'chump change'... (1)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615039)

...and will be taken as the a cost of doing business. Nuf said.

Marvelous! (1)

multicoregeneral (2618207) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615097)

The FTC should be on top of this stuff. But 22 million dollars is nothing for Google. They make that in about ten minutes.

So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (2, Interesting)

Scyber (539694) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615105)

it is supposed to and Google gets fined? Shouldn't Apple also get fined? Submitting hidden forms is not an unknown concept in web development. Its not like Google hacked the users computer and changed the Safari settings. The settings were broken if they didn't block this. I'm not saying I agree with what Google was doing, I just think there were some serious issues with Safari's privacy settings if they allowed this in the first place.

I also don't think Google is the only company doing this. I actually had an interview with an ad company a few months back where they actually bragged about how they could track Safari users despite the default privacy settings. I never followed up on it, but I'd imagine it is something similar. I didn't take the job (for other reasons).

Re:So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (1)

Flipao (903929) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615175)

Well maybe others were doing it but Google did get caught red handed.

Re:So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (4, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615343)

it is supposed to and Google gets fined? Shouldn't Apple also get fined?

You go to jail for burglary. You don't go to jail for selling locks that a highly experienced burglar can open. Apple did provide security against Random J. Hacker, they just didn't provide enough security against a multi billion dollar company working hard to break the security.

I bet if you built a safe then Google could find someone who manages to open it as well.

Re:So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (1)

Scyber (539694) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615861)

You would be fined if you sold locks that were advertised as "Blocking all burglars" and they didn't.

And don't think what google did was that innovative. As other articles linked in these comments show, this methodology is used by at least a half dozen other ad firms. The fact that form submissions get around the 3rd party blocking rules is something that was discussed in webkits bug tracking system in 2010 and is publicly available. Apple employees even commented on the policy and seemed to be ok with the "weak third-party blocking" implementation. So lets not blow things out of proportion and contend that only multi-billion dollar companies could have figured it out.

As I said, I don't agree with what Google was doing, I just fail to see how Apple isn't at fault here also.

Re:So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (2)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615499)

If a thief breaks into your house should you be fined because your door was too easy to open?

The attempts to justify Google's actions on slashdot over this whole affair have been staggering.

They did something they weren't supposed to, and are now facing the consequences. Sometimes that happens

Re:So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615603)

Yes, using a hidden Form is standard practice. The reason for this is that there are many basic Javascript functions that assume you are inside a Form as part of their operating context. Since more and more modern pages use AJAX instead of forms, they create a hidden Form in order to provide those Javascript functions with the context they rely on. It's really annoying, but that's just the way Javascript was setup.

Re:So Safari's privacy setting doesn't work as (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615617)

Yeah, let's blame the victim! He didn't stop me doing something bad so it's his fault!

Lazy programming (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615113)

So basically Google is getting fined because Apple was too lazy to actually write a secure web browser? Sounds like incompetence, and not on Google's part.

Re:Lazy programming (1)

Calibax (151875) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615555)

No, Google is being fined for taking advantage of a bug in Apple's software to make money, rather than reporting the issue to Apple so they could fix it. Heck, there's even a menu item in Safari to "Report bugs to Apple..." You seem to be blaming the victim for the poor choices of the person taking advantage of them - if someone accidentally leaves a window unlocked that doesn't translate into a right to burgle the house.

Unethical is one way to describe Google's behavior. Another way to describe it is criminal, as clearly Google was obtaining unauthorized access to a computer. You know, the sort of thing that gets people time in prison.

That's a problem with corporate law - companies have all the rights of people, but only one real responsibility - to make money. Minor fines for major infractions do not deter criminal behavior.

Re:Lazy programming (1)

Old97 (1341297) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615569)

And if you don't have good locks on your front door or if you leave a window open then whomever steals all your stuff shouldn't be prosecuted. They can keep your stuff as well.

don't be evil (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615159)

i mean, er, don't be really evil*

*we made need to add another really in there at some point

Summary grammar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615169)

Summary grammar is very poor. Can't someone that can write proper English double check a summary before it is posted?

Government's Role in "Internet Freedom" (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615197)

After seeing how Slashdot reacted to Ron Paul realigning his priorities [slashdot.org] , I think it's worth noting that "internet freedom" means taking the bad with the good. On the one hand, everyone noticed that SOPA would be an impossibility with the Pauls' new proposition. On the other hand, fines like these or even investigations to what Google or Safari or users are doing on the internet would be completely outside of the government's jurisdiction and as such would requires users to punish Google for these Safari abuses. And it is my opinion that the free market would not only care little about such an issue but be powerless to stop the largest online search provider.

So remember when you get excited about things like:

The manifesto, obtained yesterday by BuzzFeed, is titled "The Technology Revolution" and lays out an argument — in doomsday tones —for keeping the government entirely out of regulating anything online, and for leaving the private sector to shape the new online space.

You need to consider this story and how the private sector will abuse privacy left and right if it drives up revenues. With not even a public slap on the wrist from the government, you are faced with individuals playing a PR campaign against massive corporations. That rarely ends well for the individuals and the users.

Re:Government's Role in "Internet Freedom" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615881)

would requires users to punish Google for these Safari abuses

As they should! Why do we constantly allow huge corporations like Google, Sony, Apple, and Facebook to get away with what they do? Why is anyone still giving money to any of those corporate entities, given their history?

What about everyone else? (2)

Col. Klink (retired) (11632) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615541)

Google wasn't the only one using this widely publicized bug in Safari? According to the original WSJ [wsj.com] article:

The coding also has a role in some Facebook games and "apps"---particularly if the app wants to store a user's login information or game scores. In fact, a corporate Facebook page for app developers called "Best Practices" includes a link to Mr. Garg's blog post.

So, how large of a fine is Facebook going to pay?

Google was on probation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40615975)

Google wasn't the only one using this widely publicized bug in Safari? According to the original WSJ [wsj.com] article:

The coding also has a role in some Facebook games and "apps"---particularly if the app wants to store a user's login information or game scores. In fact, a corporate Facebook page for app developers called "Best Practices" includes a link to Mr. Garg's blog post.

So, how large of a fine is Facebook going to pay?

The thing was, Google was already under an FCC settlement because of violating privacy policies in the past:
http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/03/google.shtm [ftc.gov] . This means that Google can get in trouble for doing things that other companies get away with. It's also why the "Oh, we didn't know that our tracking cookies were sticking where people didn't want them" excuse doesn't fly; they were subject to special rules and they were supposed to be making super extra double sure that they didn't do anything to impinge upon users' privacy.

Sort of like how some convicted drunk drivers have driving restrictions that the rest of us don't.

No exploit (1)

mshenrick (1874438) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615813)

Form what I remember, safari blocks third party cookies by default. Google used a trick to make it accept them that didn't really 'exploit' the software, as it was not really a bug. It's Apple's fault for having a browser with that flaw! You are responsible for code running on your computer. You cannot force a computer to accept a cookie! And sending cookies is not a crime!

From the opposite perspective (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 2 years ago | (#40615973)

If you reverse things this is like a person getting fined because they purposely accessed information on a public web server that was exposed by accident.

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