Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) faces a new privacy battle with regulators after evidence of spying on iPhone users. The search giant is implicated in an inquiry by both the FTC and European Union monitoring agencies. The source of the issue being studied is the alleged hacking of iPhones by Google to track users. The firm is accued of tricking Safari, the iPhone’s web browser into running a malicious code on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones iPads and PCs. The code was user to collect user information and send it to Google. The United States Federal Trade Commission will run an inquiry to find out if the practice breaks agreements and infringes on user’s privacy.
The European Union has announced that its current probe into the legality of the company’s new user agreement will now include the code used on Safari. The code has since been removed and Google has indicated a willingness to cooperate with the investigations. A Google spokeswoman made a statement saying “We will of course cooperate with any officials who have questions,” going on to declare “But it’s important to remember that we didn’t anticipate this would happen”. Whether she is talking about the practice itself or the investigations is unclear.
The purpose of the code was to check if users on Safari were signed into their Google accounts. In order to achieve this the company sent a blank message to the browser resulting in it accepting cookies from Google. This is not the company’s first brush with regulators as it becomes increasingly derided for its attitude to its customers privacy across its services. Google is already embroiled in an investigation by the European Union into its new privacy agreements put into effect earlier this year. Google has said the new laws were a simplification of existing agreements so customers were using the same agreements across all of their services. European officials launched an investigation to ascertain whether or not the new agreement was in breach of privacy regulations.
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If the FTC indicts Google the company could face millions in fines after a settlement last year. In that settlement Google agreed not to misrepresent its practices to its users. The fines for breaking the settlement are on a per infraction basis. Google has to pay $16,000 per breach per day. This would be multiplied by the number of users affected resulting in a massive fee if they are found in the wrong. The new investigations were preceded by a blog on Tuesday by a former Google executive who said he left the company because of practices like these.