Last month, it emerged that Google was skirting privacy settings on Apple's Safari browser; now federal, state, and European Union officials are investigating the since-halted practice, which centers on the installation of tracking files. Google faces a $16,000 fine per violation per day—which could add up to quite a lot, given that millions were hit with the cookies—in a case that could go on for years, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The latest investigations follow last year's legal brouhaha over Google's Buzz service, which resulted in a company promise not to mislead users about privacy matters. The Federal Trade Commission now wants to find out whether Google broke the promise by installing the cookies, which were associated with the company's "+1" button on ads. But Google says it didn't realize the extent of the tracking, which makes for a difficult legal case: The law calls for proof that the firm knew what it was doing.