Google’s Safari cookie evasion may cost it $22.5M, the FTC’s largest fine ever

Want to know the price of crossing the Federal Trade Commission? How about $22.5 million?

That’s the price tag attached to Google’s subversion of Apple’s Safari privacy settings, which was discovered by Standford University researcher Jonathan Mayer back in February. The settlement penalty would be the largest one the FTC has ever levied against a single company, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Apple blocks third-party cookies by default in Safari, but Google’s code subverted that, allowing it and its advertising partners to track users’ browsing habits. Google denies the move was done intentionally and has repeatedly downplayed the significance of the controversy.

But the Federal Trade Commission disagrees, which is why it’s on the verge of imposing  the hefty fee on Google.

As VentureBeat has noted previously, the fee would be an unusual one for the FTC, which doesn’t usually follow through on its threats. While $22 million is chump change to Google, by imposing the fine the FTC is making it known that it’s going to take privacy matters like this one very seriously.

“The message would be that there’s a cop on the beat. For a long time, there hasn’t been,” Mayer noted back in February.

The sum of the settlement means that, according to the FTC, Google has been in violation for a little over five months. This means that the FTC started the clock in February, right when the alleged violation first came to light.