Indiana will receive more than $350,000 as part of a multi-state settlement with Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG). Attorney General Greg Zoeller says the company is accused of overriding an Internet browser's security settings to collect user information.
November 18, 2013
Indianapolis, Ind. — Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced a multistate settlement agreement today with Google Inc. for allegedly overriding Safari's internet browser security settings to collect valuable user information.
Through its DoubleClick advertising platform, Google generates revenue by facilitating the transmission of third-party cookies — small files set in Internet users' Web browsers that allow third-party advertisers to gather information about those users, including, depending on the type of cookie, their Web surfing habits.
Zoeller along with the Attorneys General of 36 States and the District of Columbia accused Google of circumventing the privacy settings which would have blocked all third party cookies. Zoeller said the company’s actions were in violation of state consumer protection and related computer privacy laws.
“Google allegedly circumvented Safari’s default privacy settings – without consumers’ consent – to allow third-party advertisers to set cookies in order to better target advertisements to consumers,” Zoeller said. “Unsuspecting Safari users continued to believe that cookies were automatically blocked. Today's settlement underscores the continuing need for states to ensure consumers' privacy remains protected.”
Apple's Safari Web browser generally blocks third-party cookies in its default privacy settings, including cookies used by DoubleClick to track a consumer’s browsing history. From June 1, 2011 until Feb. 15, 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to circumvent the Safari default privacy settings, without consumers' knowledge or consent, enabling advertisers to set third-party cookies on consumers' Safari browsers. Google disabled this coding method in February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in media.
In order to resolve the allegations, Google agreed to pay the attorneys general $17 million and Indiana’s share is $354,573. Google also agreed to injunctive relief that requires it to do the following:
• Not to override a browser’s cookie blocking settings without the consumer’s consent or unless it is necessary to so in order to detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud, security or technical issues.
• Not misrepresent or omit material information to consumers about how Google serves advertisements to their browsers.
• Improve the information it provides to consumers regarding cookies, their purposes, and how they can be managed by consumers using Google’s products or services.
• Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies placed on Safari browsers while their default settings had been circumvented.
Source: Office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller