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Google to Pay $17 Million for Unauthorized Tracking of Safari Users

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Google’s unauthorized tracking of cookies placed on Safari web browsers between 2011 and 2012 just triggered a $17-million bill for the search giant. The amount is part of a multi-state settlement agreement signed with a 10-state executive committee, the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, announced today.

“Consumers should be able to know whether there are other eyes surfing the web with them. By tracking millions of people without their knowledge, Google violated not only their privacy, but also their trust,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “We must give consumers the reassurance that they can browse the Internet safely and securely. My office will continue to protect New Yorkers from any attempts to deliberately expose their personal data.”

Safari’s web browser is set by default to block third-party cookies, including cookies set by DoubleClick, which tracks a consumer’s browsing history. But Google altered the DoubleClick coding to circumvent the default privacy settings. In fact, without the users’ knowledge or consent, they placed DoubleClick cookies in users’ Safari browsers between June 2011 and February 2012.

Google’s move was noticed by Stanford University researcher Jonathan Mayer back in February last year.

What’s noteworthy is that Google didn’t admit any wrongdoing; they just agreed to pay the bill. In a statement sent to the Wall Street Journal, the company said: “We work hard to get privacy right at Google and have taken steps to remove 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.”

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