Cookies are small text files that can be used by browsers to record online activity. Online behavioral advertising cookies track Internet users across websites to create profiles of user preferences to target advertising to more receptive audiences. By default, the Safari browser does not permit third parties to place cookies on web pages and, therefore, blocks online behavioral advertising cookies. Google’s cookies allegedly allowed Google to bypass Safari’s built-in privacy protections to aim targeted advertising at users of Safari on computers, laptops, iPhones and iPads. According to Google’s Vice President, Google did not "anticipate that this would happen and . . . [has] now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers.”
Google may face a fine if the FTC views its activities as a breach of its 2011 consent decree with the FTC. The consent decree – which came after the announcement of Google Buzz – maintains that Google must not misrepresent any of its privacy, security, or compliance policies or programs. If it is determined that Google has used cookies as an inadvertent override of Apple’s Safari browser, the FTC may deem this a breach of the consent decree.