Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), owner of the world’s most popular search engine, is nearing an agreement to pay $22.5 million to settle a U.S. Federal Trade Commission probe over claims it violated user privacy on Apple Inc.’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) Internet browser, a person familiar with the matter said.
The settlement would resolve an investigation over how Google used software that can follow user activities when they accessed the Safari browser, said the person, who declined to be identified because the matter hasn’t been made public. A Stanford University graduate student found this year that Google, using its DoubleClick ad network, violated users’ privacy on Safari, the browser used to access the Web on devices such as the iPhone and iPad.
Google has drawn regulatory scrutiny and pressure from consumer advocates for the way it handles personal information. The Mountain View, California-based company signed a consent decree with the FTC last year in which it settled allegations it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies in introducing the Buzz social-networking service in 2010.
Claudia Bourne Farrell, an FTC spokeswoman, didn’t respond to an e-mail after regular business hours seeking comment.
“We do set the highest standards of privacy and security for our users,” Google said in an e-mailed statement. “The FTC is focused on a 2009 help center page.” The company has now “changed that page and taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers.”
So-called cookies allowed Google to bypass Safari’s built- in privacy protections to aim targeted advertising at users of Safari. Google said at the time that it “didn’t anticipate this would happen” and that it was removing the files since discovering the slip.
Google’s shares rose less than 1 percent to $586.01 yesterday at the close in New York yesterday. The shares have lost 9.3 percent this year. The Wall Street Journal reported the settlement details yesterday.