The Fedral Trade Commission (FTC) are to fine the search giant, Google, $22.4m (around £14.5 million) following a privacy complaint where Google ignored “do not track signals” (dnt) within the Apple Safari web browser. The fine hasn’t been finalised but the FTC are “close to agreeing” the fine, and it will be the biggest fine the FTC has ever given a single company.
It’s worth noting that Google have said that it was an “unintentional mistake” within it’s systems to ignore DNT.
You can read the full story on BBC News here.
What I want to look at is why and how this fine has come to be placed upon Google. DNT as a system, both within web page code and browsers is not yet at an agreed standard, and is actually someway from being so.
That said it appears the original claim has been that Google actually ignored the signals of don’t drop cookies, which is the default setting for the Safari browser (which is the default and pre-installed browser on all Apple devices capable of running it).
I am sure the FTC know the difference here, well I’m not as the FTC aren’t exactly “with it” for the most part, but to put out press statements saying this is because Google ignore DNT is just wrong and misleading. Such statements leads to bad reporting from lots of media outlets and means that people won’t trust DNT as a system once it is implemented and a standard agreed. I am concerned that a gov’t body is making these mistakes and even more concerned that they are going to cause issues for implementation going forward.