Internet giant Google Inc. is close to sealing a deal that would pay $22.5 million in settlement charges for bypassing the privacy settings of millions of Apple Inc. users, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report cited officials as saying.
The fine is expected to be the highest penalty ever levied on a single company by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), reported WSJ.
However, the penalty imposed is relatively lesser than Google's settlement with the Department of Justice last year. The Department of Justice said in a statement that the search engine giant had agreed to forfeit $500 million for allowing online Canadian pharmacies to place advertisements through its AdWords program in a bid to target consumers in the United States. This inevitably led to the unlawful importation of controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the United States.
The alleged $22.5 million settlement charges are directed towards Google's use of a special computer code to trick Apple's Safari Web-browsing software into letting it monitor users that had blocked such tracking. Google disabled the code after being contacted by the Journal, reported WSJ.
"The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page...We have now changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies," WSJ quoted a statement from Google.
With an aim to check breach of privacy, the FTC issued a set of privacy guidelines in 2010 for industries to follow. The privacy recommendations were drafted after a series of meetings with representatives from the internet industry.
FTC had earlier charged big companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace for privacy and data-security violations but did not levy fines.