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Google vs. Apple: If You're Not Cheating, You're Not Trying

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There is a famous mantra in sports that I have always appreciated: "If you are not cheating, you are not trying."

As a father of two aspiring athletes, this is not a message I want to bestow upon children. However, as an investor, I appreciate that my company seeks to do everything possible to provide the type of return to have made it a worthwhile investment for its shareholders.

But the question is, should a line be drawn between "effort and ethics" and, if so, where?

I'm not going to pretend I am an expert on either subject, but there's also a famous mantra which reminds us, "All is fair in love and war." If you have been an active participant in the stock market over the past couple of years, you would know that "all-out warfare" is the only way to describe the rivalry that exists between search giant Google (GOOG - Get Report) and the largest company in the world, Apple (AAPL - Get Report).

Saying these two hate each other would be a gross understatement. However, in their mutually intense despising, there is also a great amount of respect, almost like the N.Y. Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. In baseball the only thing worse than stealing signs is getting caught doing it.

However, stealing signs in business costs money -- a lesson Google is learning today.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission imposed a fine of close to $22.5 million on Google to settle charges for allegedly bypassing privacy settings on Apple's Safari browser, according to a Wall Street Journal report late Monday citing sources close to the terms of the settlement. The search giant is accused of circumventing Safari's special computer code known as "cookies" that are blocked by default to spy and collect data on users.

Upon being contacted by the Wall Street Journal, Google subsequently halted the code and stated that it was unintentional and consumers were not harmed. Nevertheless, it did not stop the FTC from levying what is said to be the largest fine on any individual company.

While that may be true, it's a drop in the bucket for a company that has almost $50 billion in cash on Google's books. Also, it doesn't end there as the company faces potential European sanctions in relation to its privacy laws.
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