Google Settles Online Privacy Case For $17M

Google has agreed to pay Illinois, the District of Columbia, and 36 other states $17 million to settle allegations that the company skirted privacy settings on Apple Safari and allowed advertisers to gather information and track consumers’ Internet browsing habits, according to a statement from Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

The settlement, announced Monday by Madigan, addresses claims that Google allowed the search engine’s DoubleClick advertising platform to track Safari users’ Internet search habits without their knowledge or consent.

Default privacy settings on Safari are set to automatically block all advertisers from monitoring web surfing without the consumers’ consent, but Madigan and 37 other attorneys general alleged Google “took active steps to circumvent those privacy settings” and thus violated state consumer protection laws and related computer privacy laws.

“Google was actively tracking users’ web traffic without their authorization,” Madigan said in the statement. “This settlement will ensure that Google restricts its data collection practices and provides better information to users about how to manage their browser settings.”

From 2011 to 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to enable unauthorized cookies – personalized data used to track browsing behavior – because, as the Internet’s main free search engine, Google makes majority of its revenue through advertising, according to the statement.

Under the settlement, the company has agreed to not override browsers’ cookie-blocking settings unless it is necessary to detect or prevent fraud, security or technical issues; be forthright with Internet users about Google products and advertising; improve the information it provides to users regarding cookies; and ensure the expiration of third-party cookies acquired o