A free SpongeBob Squarepants game from Nickelodeon has had to be pulled from the App Store following complaints that it violates children’s online privacy rights. SpongeBob Diner Dash asked children for their names and email addresses without parental permission — so that it could fill their inboxes with spam, no doubt — causing an advocacy group to report the app to the Federal Trade Commission.
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The Federal Trade Commission released information this morning that because of their misrepresentation to users of Apple’s Safari Internet browser, Google has agreed to pay a record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle charges from the FTC.
The $22.5 million fine is the largest in FTC history. Earlier this year an investigation found that Google had placed advertising cookies on the computers of Safari users who visited sites on Google’s DoubleClick ad network. Users were told by Google that they would automatically be opted out of the tracking, but Google kept tracking them anyway.
Back in February it was discovered that Google was bypassing Apple’s privacy settings in Mobile Safari on iOS. The search giant was making ad revenue from Safari users’ web activity by ‘tricking’ the default iOS browser to allow multiple tracking cookies.
6 months later, and Google is about to pay the “largest penalty ever levied on a single company” by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Google will pay $22.5 million to settle the charges issued by the FTC, and the code in question has already been disabled by Google in Safari on iOS.
Reports surfaced earlier this month that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had begun a probe into Facebook’s proposed $1 billion acquisition of Instagram. No specific reasons were given for the FTC’s probe, but the acquisition was reportedly stalled due to antitrust concerns. It will likely take regulators up to a year to determine if the deal violates U.S. antitrust law.
Facebook will pay Instagram $200 million if the deal falls through. If the FTC approves the acquisition, Instagram’s two co-founders will net $500 million combined.
A couple of months ago, The Wall Street Journal raised a huge stink when they reported that Google was tracking millions of iOS & Mac Safari users against their wishes using a loophole in the way that Safari’s cookie handling algorithm.
Google on its parts always said it had done nothing wrong, and used known functionality in Safari to make sure their advertising cookies were always stored locally on users’ machines, even if their cookie settings were set to private. Looks like that might not have been enough for the FTC, though, who are now looking to start doling out fines to Google over the issue.