Newspaper article International New York Times

Google Agrees to Pay $17 Million to Settle Privacy Case

Newspaper article International New York Times

Google Agrees to Pay $17 Million to Settle Privacy Case

Article excerpt

The case is one of a growing pile of government investigations, lawsuits and punishments related to privacy matters at the company.

Google has agreed to pay $17 million to 37 states and the District of Columbia in a wide-reaching settlement over tracking consumers online without their knowledge.

The case involved Google's bypassing of privacy settings in Apple's Safari browser to use cookies to track users and show them advertisements in 2011 and 2012. Google has said it discontinued circumventing the settings early last year, after the practice was publicly reported, and stopped tracking Safari users and showing them personalized ads.

The fine is a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars that Google earns in advertising revenue each year. But the case is one of a growing pile of government investigations, lawsuits and punishments related to privacy matters at the company. They include cases involving a social networking tool called Buzz, illegal data collection by Street View vehicles and accusations of wiretapping to show personalized ads in Gmail.

"Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them," Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York State, said in a statement Monday. "By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust."

Google, in a statement, said: "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. We're pleased to have worked with the state attorneys general to reach this agreement."

In addition to the fine, Google also agreed to avoid using software code that overrides a browser's cookie-blocking settings, to avoid omitting or misrepresenting information to consumers about how they use Google products or control the ads they see, to maintain for five years a web page explaining what cookies are and how to control them, and to ensure that the cookies tied to Safari browsers expire. …

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