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Google pays US states $17m to settle Apple web browser tracking complaint

Payment equal to one days' revenue for hacking Safari browser cookie settings going to 37 US states and District of Columbia in PR blow to search company
Google pays US states $17m to settle Apple web browser tracking complaint

Google is paying $17m to 37 US states and the District of Columbia as compensation for snooping on millions of people by subverting Apple's web browser in 2011 and 2012.


The settlement, announced on Monday evening, follows a record $22.5m fine handed out to the search giant in August 2012 over the same complaint by the US Federal Trade Commission.


The settlement came after Google admitted in 2012 that it had circumvented protections built into Apple's Safari browser on the iPhone, iPad and Mac to track users via its DoubleClick advertising network.


Apple's default settings ban sites which users have not visited from setting "cookies", small text files with information about the user and site, on their machine. Cookies can act as unique identifiers of a user; if two unrelated sites used DoubleClick for advertising - as many do - and a Safari user went from one to the other, their movements could be tracked by Google.


Google admitted that it had carried out the hacking of the Safari browser in February 2012, but did not admit liability, the same position that it adopted with the FTC. This was important in that judgement because an admission of liability could have left Google subject to a much larger fine on the grounds that it breached a previous FTC consent order over user privacy. That was imposed in March 2011 over its "Buzz" social networkand will be in force for 20 years.


Google has maintained the Safari intrusion was an inadvertent side-effect of an attempt to make it easier for people to recommend ads.


Until the problem was uncovered by Jonathan Mayer, a graduate student at Stanford University, Google had assured Safari users that they wouldn't be monitored as long as they didn't change the browser settings to permit the tracking.

Date PostedThursday, November 21, 2013, 4 yaers Ago
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michael michael
This was important in that judgement because an admission of liability could have left Google subject to a much larger fine on the grounds that it breached a previous FTC consent order over user privacy.
4 yaers Ago via michael, Monday, January 13, 2014
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