Nov 20, 2013 05:07 PM EST
Google will pay $17 million to 37 states and Washington D.C. to settle charges that it infringed on user privacy by gleaning browsing data through a security loophole in the Safari web browser during 2011 and 2012.
The loophole allowed Google’s DoubleClick ad product to track Safari browsing history without users opting in, or even being made aware. DoubleClick in turn used the browsing data to better target the users it was illicitly spying on with tailored advertising content.
"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 in a press release. "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."
The State of New York will receive about $900,000 from the settlement.
For Google, this is hardly the first time the company has found itself in court over privacy violations. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission levied a $22.5 million fine against the company for more or less the exact same thing. It was the largest fine ever imposed by the agency.
For its part, Google claims that the Safari spying was accidental and the result of its efforts to make it easier for people to recommend ads to other users. It’s unclear why Google is under the impression that “recommending ads” is something that people typically do.
"We work hard to get privacy right at Google and have taken steps to remove the ad cookies, which collected no personal information, from Apple's browsers," the company said in a Monday statement. "We're pleased to have worked with the state attorneys general to reach this agreement."
The full list of states that will share the $17 million settlement is as follows: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
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