However, Google told Safari users that they did not need to opt out of this tracking because the Safari browser blocked third-party cookies by default, the FTC said. The agency found that this privacy misrepresentation violated the terms of an earlier settlement it reached with Google over its social network Buzz.
U.S. district judge Susan Illston concluded that the $22.5 million fine
and the terms of the FTC's settlement were "fair, adequate and
reasonable," the AP reported.
Google said the tracking was inadvertent and the problem was fixed when the news about its privacy violation on Safari first surfaced. Safari is the default Web browser used on Apple gadgets, including the iPhone and iPad.
The judge's approval of the fine deals a blow to Consumer Watchdog, which fought to oppose the settlement. The Santa Monica, Calif.-based group argued that the settlement lets Google deny any wrongdoing and said the fine is a drop in the bucket for the search giant.
"We were disappointed by the ruling. I still believe that the fine, although a big one by most standards, is mere pocket change to Google," said John Simpson, the privacy project director at Consumer Watchdog.
Simpson added that allowing a large company like Google to "buy its way out of trouble without admitting any wrong doing" is "wrong-headed."
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
-- This post was updated at 1:11 p.m. with comment from Consumer Watchdog.