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Federal judge approves FTC's $22.5-million fine on Google

November 16, 2012|By Jessica Guynn
  • The Google logo at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., last year.
The Google logo at the company's headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.,… (Kimihiro Hoshino / AFP /…)

A federal judge has approved a $22.5-million fine against Google despite calls from a consumer advocacy group for a stiffer penalty.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston issued the ruling late Friday, a few hours after a hearing arguments.

The fine was part of a deal Google reached with the Federal Trade Commission three months ago to settle charges that it bypassed privacy settings on Apple software to track users' online activity and show them personalized ads. Such behavior would violate terms of the settlement Google reached with the commission last year over Google's now-defunct Buzz social networking service.

The $22.5-million penalty was the biggest fine the FTC had ever levied against a company for a civil violation. Attorneys for Google and the FTC defended the settlement in court Friday.

Consumer Watchdog tried to block the settlement, arguing that the fine was not large enough and that Google should have admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement. The judge did not agree.

The fine, although large by the federal government's standards, is a drop in the bucket for Google, which made nearly $38 billion in revenue last year.

“We were disappointed, but think we made important points that will have an impact on how similar cases are dealt with in the future,” said John Simpson, director of the Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project.

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Follow Guynn on Twitter.

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