Google to pay record fine for violating Apple users’ privacy

Google is close to paying a fine of 22.5 million U.S. dollars to settle charges that it bypassed Apple users’ privacy settings to track their online activities, U.S. media reported on Tuesday.

Google and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have agreed on the proposed settlement, which still requires final approval and may be changed before being announced to the public, officials familiar with the deal told The Wall Street Journal.

If the fine does come in at 22.5 million dollars, it will be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the FTC, said the report.

The charges and the fine by the FTC came after reports in February that Google made an end run around a privacy setting in Apple’s Safari browser, the default browser for iPhone, iPad, iPod and Macintosh users, in order to track users’ online activities.

It was found by a graduate student at Stanford University and first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Google has said the tracking was inadvertent and caused no harm to Safari users. But the FTC believed that the Internet search giant violated a deal it reached with federal regulators last October, in which the FTC “bars the company from future privacy misrepresentations.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google may face other charges from government regulators for the Safari case. The European Union and a group of U.S. state attorneys could go after the tech giant as well, said the newspaper.

Last August, Google agreed to settle with the U.S. Justice Department for 500 million dollars over allegedly allowing advertisements for illegal prescription drugs on its service. That was the largest fine ever paid by the company.