Google will pay $22.5 million to settle charges it misrepresented privacy assurances to users of Apple's Safari Internet browser, U.S. officials said.
Google violated an earlier agreement with the Federal Trade Commission in which it said it would not place tracking "cookies" or serve targeted ads to those users, an FTC release reporting the settlement said Thursday.
The $22.5 million is the largest penalty the FTC has ever obtained for a violation of a commission order.
"The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. "No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place."
In addition to the civil penalty, Google has been ordered to disable all the tracking cookies it had said it would not place on consumers' computers, the FTC said.
The FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed an advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites in Google's DoubleClick advertising network, although the company had previously assured these users they would automatically be opted out of such tracking as a result of the default settings of the Safari browser used in Macs, iPhones and iPads.
Despite these promises, the FTC charged, Google placed advertising tracking cookies on consumers' computers, in many cases by circumventing the Safari browser's default cookie-blocking setting.