Google Inc.'s Breach of Apple's Safari Said to Be Probed by U.S.

FTC Opens Investigation

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Google Inc.'s breach of Apple Inc.'s Safari Internet browser is under investigation by U.S. regulators to determine whether it caused consumers to be misled about privacy safeguards, a person familiar with the matter said.

The Federal Trade Commission is examining whether Mountain View, Calif.-based Google effectively deceived consumers by planting so-called cookies on Safari, bypassing Apple software's privacy settings, said the person, who lacked authorization to speak publicly and declined to be identified.

The cookies allowed Google to aim targeted advertising at Safari users. The FTC oversees consumer protection against "unfair and deceptive" practices.

The agency is also looking at whether Google violated a consent decree with the commission signed last year, the person said. That settlement was reached after Google agreed that it had used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policies in introducing the Buzz social-networking service in 2010.

The 20-year settlement bars Google from misrepresenting how it handles user information and requires the company to follow policies that protect consumer data in new products.

"We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions," said Chris Gaither, a spokesman for Google, which has acknowledged it ended up placing the advertising cookies on Safari after opening a connection to give signed-in users access to a Google function. "But it's important to remember that we didn't anticipate this would happen."

~~ Bloomberg News
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