Connecticut, 36 Other States Settle Safari Browser Privacy Dispute with Google

by | Nov 18, 2013 1:43pm
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Connecticut, along with 36 other states and the District of Columbia, will collect $17 million from Google after the company allegedly circumvented privacy settings in Apple’s Safari browser.

The issue involved “cookies” or small files that many websites use cookies to remember user information from one page to the next.  Google, through one of its advertising platforms, uses something called “third party” cookies that track users as they move from one website to another. Those cookies transmit that user data back to advertising servers which then in turn deliver customized advertisements based on that user’s browsing history.

By default, Apple’s Safari web browser on the iPhone and Mac disable the use of third party cookies, but the states allege that Google found a way to circumvent that privacy setting.  They say that from June 1, 2011 through February 15, 2012, Google found a way to embed the cookies on Safari browsers but did not notify users they were doing so.

“Google represented that consumers could avoid third-party cookies being placed in their Safari Web browsers simply by relying on the browser’s default settings,” Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said. “This settlement resolves allegations that, while giving these very assurances, Google was actually bypassing those same privacy settings and placing advertisers’ cookies on consumers’ Safari browsers, without their knowledge or consent.”

Beyond the financial agreement, Google has agreed that it will not override browser privacy settings in the future unless they are trying to prevent fraud or track a security issue. Google will also provide information to the states involved regarding how they are using cookies for the next five years. Google will also provide instructions to Safari users so that they can ‘expire’ the cookies that may still be on their systems.

Connecticut’s share of the settlement is $535,312.

A copy of the settlement document can be found here.

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