Google Settles in Apple Cookies Case

Monday, November 25, 2013 @ 03:11 PM gHale

Google reached a $17 million settlement with 37 U.S. states and the District of Columbia over its unauthorized placement of cookies on devices running Apple’s Safari browser, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Nov. 18.

The states accused Google of placing tracking on computers of Safari users when they visited sites in Google’s DoubleClick ad network in 2011 and 2012. The company in August 2012 also agreed to pay a $22.5 million civil penalty to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the largest penalty the agency had secured for a violation of one of its orders.

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“Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them,” Schneiderman said. “By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust.”

“We work hard to get privacy right at Google and have taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple’s browsers,” a Google spokeswoman said.

By default, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies, including cookies from DoubleClick to track a consumer’s browsing history. From June 2011 to February 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to circumvent those default privacy settings on Safari, without consumers’ knowledge or consent, Schneiderman said in a press release.

The state attorneys general said Google’s circumvention of Safari’s default privacy settings violated state consumer protection and related computer privacy laws. Google failed to inform Safari users it was circumventing their privacy settings and Google’s earlier representation that third-party cookies ended up blocked for Safari users was misleading, they said.

Google, in the settlement, agreed it would not override a browser’s cookie-blocking settings without a customer’s consent, unless it was necessary to do so to detect or prevent fraud and other security issues. The company also agreed to give consumers more information about cookies and how to manage them.



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