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Broken privacy vow costs Google $22 million

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google is paying a record $22.5 million fine to settle allegations that it broke a privacy promise by secretly tracking millions of Web surfers who use Apple's Safari browser.

The penalty announced Thursday by the Federal Trade Commission matches the figure that media outlets had reported last month. It's the largest fine that the FTC has imposed against a company for violating a previous agreement with the agency.

Google Inc. isn't admitting any wrongdoing in the latest settlement. The fine isn't over Google's data collection, but for misrepresenting what was happening. Last October, Google signed a 20-year agreement that included a company pledge not to mislead consumers about its privacy practices.

The FTC opened its investigation into the Safari activities six months ago after a researcher at Stanford University revealed that Google had overridden Safari safeguards that are supposed to prevent outside parties from monitoring Web surfing activity without a user's permission.

The tracking occurs through snippets of computer coding, called cookies, that help Internet services and advertisers target marketing pitches based on analysis of a person's Web surfing.

Google immediately withdrew its intrusive technology from Safari after the manipulation was reported.

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