$17 Million Multistate Settlement with Google Over Tracking of Consumers
South Dakota’s share is $224,549.25.
- Google had been offering consumers the ability to opt out of having third-party advertising cookies set on their browsers through installing an advertising cookie opt-out plugin. On its webpage describing that advertising cookie opt-out plugin, Google represented to consumers using Apple’s Safari Web browser (“Safari users”) that “Safari is set by default to block all third-party cookies. If you have not changed those settings, this option effectively accomplishes the same thing as setting the opt-out cookie.” This statement was misleading to Safari users because it suggested that they would not receive third-party cookies, although subsequent to the inclusion of this statement, Google took active steps to circumvent Safari’s default settings for the purpose of setting third-party cookies. By circumventing Safari’s default settings, Google placed cookies on the computers of Safari users without the consumers’ knowledge or consent.
- Google operates the most popular search engine on the
Internet. Use of the search engine is
free, so Google generates revenue primarily through advertising. Through its DoubleClick advertising platform,
Google sets third-party cookies—small files set in consumers’ Web browsers—that
enable it to gather information about those consumers, including, depending on
the type of cookie, their Web surfing habits. Apple’s Safari Web browser is set by default to block third-party
cookies, including cookies set by DoubleClick to track a consumer’s browsing
history. From June 1, 2011 until
February 15, 2012, Google altered its DoubleClick coding to circumvent those
default privacy settings on Safari, without consumers’ knowledge or consent,
enabling it to set DoubleClick cookies on consumers’ Safari Web browsers. Google disabled this coding method in
February 2012 after the practice was widely reported on the Internet and in
- The Attorneys General allege that Google’s circumvention of
the default privacy settings in Safari for blocking third-party cookies
violates State consumer protection and related computer privacy laws. The States claim that Google failed to inform
Safari users that it was circumventing their privacy settings and that Google’s
earlier representation that third-party cookies were blocked for Safari users
- In order to resolve these allegations, Google has agreed to pay the Attorneys General $17 million and has also agreed to injunctive relief that requires it to do the following:
- Not deploy the type of code used here to override a
browser’s cookie blocking settings without the consumer’s consent unless it is
necessary to do so in order to detect, prevent or otherwise address fraud,
security or technical issues.
- Not misrepresent or omit material information to consumers
about how they can use any particular Google product, service, or tool to
directly manage 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 and tools.
- Maintain systems designed to ensure the expiration of the third-party cookies set on Safari Web browsers while their default settings had been circumvented.