Google will have to pay $22.5 million after a federal judge has approved the fine to penalize the search engine giant for a privacy breach.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston ruled Friday after a hearing in San Francisco for final arguments relating to the fine that was the final part of the settlement reached three months ago between the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Google Inc.
The issue revolves around allegations Google duped millions of Web surfers using the Safari browser into believing the company could not track their online activities as long as they didn’t change the browser’s privacy settings.
That assurance was on Google’s website earlier this year, even as the Internet search leader was inserting computer coding that bypassed Safari’s automatic settings and enabled the company to peer into the online lives of the browser’s users.
The FTC concluded the contradiction between Google’s stealth tracking and its privacy assurances to Safari users violated a vow the company made in another settlement with the agency last year. Google had promised not to mislead people about its privacy practices.
In her final ruling, Illston accepted the FTC’s assertion the settlement ‘‘sufficiently protects consumers from ongoing harm without exposing them to additional risks.’’ She cited legal precedent compelling her to ‘‘pay deference’’ the government agency that negotiated and submitted a proposed settlement such as the Safari case.
The FTC and Google spent more than two months working out the details of the settlement, Illston said in her ruling.