As reported by Forbes and a number of other agencies, Google has almost reached a settlement with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) regarding Google’s recent privacy settings abuse.
The settlement doesn’t seem like a very positive one, though, when we take a look at the size of the fine – $22.5 million. This is going to be the largest penalty ever levied on a single company by the FTC.
Now, for an average company, getting a $22.5-million fine means quite a lot of trouble. Actually, this is like a death sentence. Not for Google, though.
As a matter of fact, Google is expected to generate upwards of $45 billion in revenue in 2012. By doing some simple math we can quickly find out that generating $22 million in revenue takes Google exactly 4 hours and 20 minutes. So is it such a serious penalty after all? … You decide.
Let’s take a look at the crime. Recently, Google’s been quite serious about integrating all their social media features and other apps into different online tools and popular web browsers. And this is where the whole privacy settings abuse comes into play.
Safari – one the top browsers, created by Apple – has some privacy settings that prevent external tools/apps from performing certain events. This wasn’t in tune with Google’s plans, so they’ve decided to bypass these settings in order to get some aspects of Google+ to work on “iDevices.”
More precisely, they wanted the browser to be able to recognize that a user is logged in to Google, so they could +1 things they’re browsing at the moment. To make it available, Google decided to use “cookies” that would sit on users’ computers and gather information.
As we all know, Apple is kind of in competition with Google (at least they like us to think that they’re on the same level) so they’ve decided to hit Google hard on this one.
Google says that this whole issue is just an accident and that the engineers didn’t want to bypass anything, saying:
“We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.”
What’s the outcome? Well, when we look at the amount fined – $22.5 million – we have to admit that it’s an extraordinary penalty for something as simple as a cookie file. However, when we take into account that Google can make this amount of money in less than 5 hours, the penalty immediately seems a lot less significant.
What this means for affiliates?
Google says left and right that they don’t want you to be evil and use any shady SEO or SEM techniques (all the Penguin issues), however, in the end, they are the ones being chased by the FTC.
What conclusion should you – an affiliate – get from this? You decide. But maybe we should simply stop treating Google as this ultra-honest and honorable company.